Kevin Boothe, a consensus All-American and three-time first-team All-Ivy pick for Cornell at offensive tackle, and later a two-time Super Bowl champion with the New York Giants, lived, like almost any other Cornell student, on North Campus his freshman year.
He lived in a quad on the fourth floor of Mary Donlon Hall with three of his friends, which, according to Booth, was perfect for late night snacks at Nasties. Between football practice and classes, the emerging football star spent the majority of his days in “good ol’ Statler Hall,” where he would eventually meet his wife.
Fond memories like these rushed back to Boothe as he visited his alma mater Homecoming weekend to be inducted into Cornell Athletics’ Hall of Fame. While his legacy was being engraved into Cornell’s history books with the other all-time greats, Boothe relished seeing his old friends, teammates and the campus he once called home.
While there are certainly too many memories to count for the two-time Super Bowl champion, Boothe’s most memorable moment from his Cornell days was his final game for the Red.
“It was my last game in November of 2005,” Boothe recalled. “It was at Franklin Field against Penn. The previous time we were at Franklin Field was back in 2003, and we lost 59-7. Fast forward two years later. We hadn’t had a winning season since I’d been there. We won 16-7, ending the season with a winning record.”
The game ended and he walked off the field, having played his last game ever in a Cornell uniform.
For Boothe, this game was symbolic of his Cornell legacy — a bittersweet ending to an exceptional career.
“I felt as though I’d left the program better than when it started,” Boothe said. “It was a flood of emotions.”
And what a flood of emotions it must have been to come back and witness Cornell’s dominant homecoming victory over Yale, a seemingly smooth continuation of when Boothe led the team to its most recent winning season.
According to Boothe, the victory can be attributed to great weather, momentum and the massive fan turnout.
“It was one of those great weather weekends,” Boothe said. “The one thing that never changes is when your team wins, fans will show up. There’s always excitement around Homecoming. The players really feed off that energy. It’s always fun to rally around a team during Homecoming.”
Following the game, Boothe rushed to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, an honor he had been anticipating from the moment he first stepped onto Cornell’s campus while being recruited.
“One of my first memories from Cornell was on my recruiting trip,” Boothe said. “They had the scrolls lining the walls overlooking the field of Schoellkopf. I remember thinking, ‘Man, that’d be awesome if one day my name could be up on those walls.’”
Now that dream has finally come to fruition. Even though the two-time Super Bowl champion is clearly deserving of this prestigious award, he remains honored, humbled and in disbelief.
“It’s almost surreal,” Boothe said. “It’s amazing to think that my name will be associated with the all-time greats of Cornell University.”
With his friends and family by his side, the ceremony was a truly special night for Boothe.
“A few of my former teammates and my head coach — who was actually a groomsman at my wedding — were there,” he said. “I had some family members there and it was really a wonderful evening.”
And despite the legacy, despite the years of blood, sweat and tears culminating in this one moment, despite the profound honor that comes from being inducted into Cornell’s everlasting Hall of Fame, Boothe and his friends couldn’t help but chuckle at his induction photo, laughing as if a day hadn’t gone by since their undergraduate years.
“We were cracking up because it was my mug shot from sophomore year,” he said. “I think my tie was crooked in the photo.”
After a nostalgic weekend with friends, awards and a triumphant victory for the Red, Boothe was reminded of some of the ways Cornell’s culture molded him for success at the next level. Boothe explained that these values never left him, preparing him mentally for his career in the NFL.
“One of the things I think I really learned from Cornell is mental toughness — you know that things don’t necessarily go your way,” Boothe said. “And also a matter of learning how to play for your teammate — learning how to play for one another.”
For Boothe, the fact that the Ivy League does not provide athletic scholarships put him in a unique situation, one that kept him grounded and focused on his team. Without the incentives of a scholarship, Boothe explained, players focus on what really matters — the Cornell community, love for your teammates and a genuine passion for football.
“You gotta be out there because you love football, and you love playing with the guy next to you,” Booth said. “You ultimately have to go back to loving the game, and loving your teammates and playing with your teammates.”
Boothe looks back on his Cornell days as some of the best days of his life —high praise coming from a man who won two Super Bowls. Even while playing under the bright lights of the NFL, he values his experiences at Cornell and the lessons he learned while on campus.
After having a chance to reflect on his days as an undergraduate, he departed Ithaca once again, leaving today’s Cornellians with a word of advice.
“Regardless of what I went on to achieve at the professional level, some of my best memories in athletics and in life occurred on Cornell’s campus,” Boothe said. “The experience, the lifelong friends — Cornell is a place that is truly special to me, and a place that I’ll always hold dear to my heart.”