As down-to-earth Kevin Boothe ’05 – a 6-4, 316-pound giant among men – is, even he raised an eyebrow for a moment during the NFL Combine in late February. He was about to do a drill when he looked over, and saw that standing less than 10 feet away from him, was the Dallas Cowboys head coach and two-time Super Bowl winner Bill Parcells.
“It’s kind of like I’m in a dream, in a fog,” Boothe said about his past few months over the phone Friday.
Boothe, a former Red offensive lineman, three-time first-team All Ivy selection, and future NFL player, has traveled a road not normally taken by Ivy Leaguers.
He has been touted by NFL Draft analysts, including ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr., as the top Division I-AA prospect this year. On ESPN’s SportsCenter in early March, Kiper labeled Boothe as this year’s top sleeper pick and said the lineman, who has played at the guard and tackle positions at Cornell, could go as high as late in the second round.
Not that any of this hype distracts Boothe. The Plantation, Fla., native, who is currently at home right now working out in preparation for the April 29-30 draft, said that since he graduated from Cornell in mid-December, he’s trying to block out the clamor and focus on improving his weaknesses.
“I hear the stuff people tell me and what they think, but I don’t take it that much into account,” Boothe said. “It’s all speculation … I don’t think the teams even know what they’re doing at this point.”
And in regards to Kiper, he said, “Even as great as Mel Kiper is, he doesn’t know where I’ll end up.”
It doesn’t particularly matter what team he joins, he said, even in cold climates, as for many years he plied his trade on Schoellkopf Field. From the time he left East Hill, Boothe has been looking forward to performing at the highest level while silencing his critics who cite that the lineman has not played against top-notch competition in Division I-AA football.
“That is something I’ve heard, but at the same time, I think my technique is good to the point that going against better players should not matter,” he said.
“I’ve told this to him, I’ve told this to the scouts: He’s every bit as good as anyone I’ve been around at that level,” said Cornell head coach Jim Knowles ’87, who oversaw NFL-capable players in his previous position at the University of Mississippi. “We’re all very proud of him, [and] Kevin is that type of person where you know he’s got everything under control.”
One way he attempted to take his ability to the next level was through training in Orlando in preparation for the combine, with other NFL prospects and renowned sports trainer Tom Shaw. The experience proved to be beneficial for Boothe, who thinks that he is much more explosive since he left Cornell. To go along with this, Boothe became friends with other lineman, such as projected first round top-5 pick D’Brickashaw Ferguson from Virginia.
“He’s a great person and just getting to work with him, we get to learn a lot from each other in terms of doing things technique-wise on the offensive line,” Boothe said.
Boothe was invited to participate in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 21, giving him the first opportunity to go up against some of the best players in this year’s draft. The lineman was also able to start talking to professional coaches and scouts, but he made sure not to be totally overwhelmed by the situation and the opponents he faced.
“I think that’s the one thing that you have to get out of your head,” said Boothe, who added that he felt he adjusted well to the game’s faster pace. “You might see a Miami or a USC helmet, but then when you see them in person, they’re not much different than what I am.”
The other major experience Boothe, who has been projected by a variety of sources to be selected between the second and fifth rounds, gained was in the NFL Combine, which took place in Indianapolis. The combine lasted a week and although 40-yard dash times, bench-press marks and certain quarterbacks’ Wonderlic test scores are often highlighted, Boothe’s days involved much more than that – his day usually started at 5:30 in the morning and ended at 11 at night.
During this time, he met a slew of position and head coaches and they mostly told him that the combine was used “to reassert what they [originally] thought about you.”
On one whole field day, Boothe and other players were doing physical evaluations with each of the 32 NFL teams. Boothe, who has had a serious ankle injury, as well as a pair of broken hands in the past, was not fazed by the procedures where they “get to poke and pull on you.”
“It’s not a concern for me, but teams have to cover their bases because they have to make sure that I’m OK. It’s nothing out of the ordinary,” he said.
Boothe was back in Ithaca a couple of weeks ago to visit some of his former teammates and for a little while, relive some of his college days among his peers. He’s been surpassed in one of his hobbies, playing video games like Madden, by some of his closest friends, but it was “great to see a lot of the guys.”
Boothe has privately worked out with the Miami Dolphins and the Jacksonville Jaguars and attended a pro day in Syracuse, where he met more team representatives. He said he has no idea what team he will end up with, but even with Kiper’s compliments, Boothe is staying even keel.
“I didn’t see it for a couple of days, I heard about it though,” Boothe said of Kiper’s praise on SportsCenter. “It’s great to get my name out there … [but] the last thing you want to do is build your hopes up and then on Draft Day, you’re disappointed.”
Until then, Boothe will train and wait with his anxious and excited family, knowing that in as little as a month, he could possibly be across the country practicing for a professional team and fulfilling his ultimate goal.
“I guess I think everyone who plays football wants to play as long as they can,” Boothe said. “I want to seize the opportunity Cornell gave me and try to make the best of it now.”
Archived article by Brian Tsao
Sun Senior Writer