Jeremiah Booker Looking to Make Bigger Impact in 2016
LAWRENCE, Kan. — While going through his first spring practice, Kansas sophomore wide receiver Jeremiah Booker plans to make his second season even better than his first. The College Station, Texas, native who had a strong rookie campaign for KU in 2015, is looking to make an even greater impact in the Jayhawk offense as it moves to the Air Raid.
“I like the speed of the offense, the high tempo,” said Booker. With the routes we have, I feel like I can impact the offense as a good possession receiver. I have been working on my routes and I want to catch everything that comes my way.”
Booker has been making his presence felt since the time he stepped on campus last June. He was a sponge, soaking up every bit of information he could during those summer months so that when fall camp rolled around he would be ready to make a statement on the field.
“The summer helped me get organized,” said Booker, who is majoring in business. “I had to figure out how to use my time wisely. In high school I would depend on my parents to do a lot of that for me. They set up everything for me, so I had to grow up and make my own plans and come up with my own calendar for school and everything as far as getting my work done. It helped me to be here more on the school side to get acclimated. We have our academic counselors to help us out, but we still need to do a lot of things on our own in order to get good grades.
“It helped me with football stuff too. I started setting alarms on my phone for everything—meetings, workouts, treatment—it’s not just for waking up anymore. It is a planner to help me keep track of everything.”
By being responsible off the field, Booker started turning heads, but it was his play on the field that really made people take notice. He earned rave reviews for his work ethic in the classroom and in the weight room, but most importantly his peers were impressed with his ability during 7-on-7 in those hot summer months.
Booker attributes his mindset of putting his head down and working hard across the board to his successful summer.
“I wanted to pick a school where I had a chance to play early,” said Booker. “So after talking to the coaches here, I knew if I worked hard, got the system down and learned fast, I would have a chance to play.
“I had that mindset that if I came in and worked hard and took everything from the coaches and upperclassmen I could, I would have a chance. I tried to learn as much as possible about growing both on and off the field. I focused on getting in the film room to study, eating right, doing all of my school work and managing all of my time so that I could really focus on football when it was time to do that. I had a mindset that I would come here and compete and earn my position.”
After a great summer getting acclimated to college life, Booker was ready for his first fall camp. And after showing out in his collegiate practice debut, fall camp quickly came to an end for him.
“Going into camp I was actually thinking too much and a little nervous,” said Booker. “Some of the older guys told me to relax and not overthink things, so by the first day of practice I wasn’t really nervous. I went into it focused on the drills and getting better. I was having a good time running routes and working with the quarterbacks trying to get timing down. We had worked on it a lot over the summer so it felt natural to me. I really just enjoyed the first day. It was more exciting to me after working so hard to be in that position.
“After the first day of practice I was able to evaluate myself on film and I was pleased with myself, but I also saw how much I had to work on to be a complete player. The coaches broke it down for me and I saw a lot of things I could get better at. I was happy to get through the first day and keep moving forward.”
The momentum of that stellar first practice would not last long though, as Booker landed awkwardly while making a diving catch on day two and would be forced to miss the next eight weeks.
“I made a good play, but when I landed on the ground I knew I broke it (collar bone),” said Booker. “The first thing that came to my mind was ‘God has me’. The second thing was, all that work I put in in the summer was down the drain. But in the training room Coach (David) Beaty told me to just keep working. Of course I was hurting on the inside, but it actually motivated me.”
After a couple of days of taking it easy, Booker was back in action. He was unable to run through drills, but he was out at every practice and in every meeting soaking up as much knowledge as he could so that when he was physically able to return, he would not have missed a beat mentally.
“It slowed the game down for me,” said Booker. “When I was injured I had to come back to reality. I had not done anything yet and just because people were excited about me that doesn’t mean I had earned my position. I had to really invest in the meetings and watch a lot of film to make sure I knew the offense like everyone else. I learned a lot from watching film. It hurt at the time, but it was actually a blessing because I learned the plays and coverages and I really became a student of the game. Prior to my injury I was all about the physical part of the game, but not being able to be out there made me focus on the mental side.”
Finally his time to get back in the game presented itself. It was Kansas’ fifth game of the season and the Jayhawks were hosting third-ranked Baylor. A tall task for any rookie making their debut, but Booker took it all in stride and quickly validated all of that talk about him during the summer and early fall practice.
“When I came back I wasn’t nervous at all,” said Booker who hauled in three catches for 39 yards against the Bears. “Once I started making plays I was ready to get rolling. We didn’t win the game, so that was tough—but on a personal level, I was really pleased with myself. When I first had my injury I wasn’t sure how my season would turn out, but once I started making catches in that game, I felt really comfortable. I felt good about myself. I kept trying to get better from there.”
Booker went on to have a solid freshman campaign for Kansas. He finished the year with 23 catches for 228 yards, while playing in just eight games.
“My first year was more about growing as a person,” said Booker, who is KU’s third-leading receiver returning to the field in 2016. “Having dealt with the injury and improving myself as far as the mental side of the game was important. On the field, there were a lot of small things that I didn’t have to do in high school that make a big difference in college. I learned a lot about technique and also nutrition. I learned about how to keep my body healthy.”
With his first season of college football behind him, Booker wants to build off of that and continue to be a player Jayhawk fans can count on.
“I want to be the one who carries the heavy load,” said Booker of his role among the KU receiver. “I want to be the guy who gets the hard yards, a power receiver who can extend every possession.”
With his mindset based on hard work, Booker is well on his way to earning those yards.