Rivals.com rated running back Lorenzo Booker as the No. 1 player in the country as a senior. I didn't and that's why he was mad at me from the first snap of the season.
I rated quaterback Ben Olson as the No. 1 player and running back Maurice Clarett as No. 2. Booker was upset that I rated Clarett ahead of him.
As it turned out, I overrated him as the second best running back in the nation. I rated him as the No. 10 player nationally. He had an average career at Florida State. He was a very good high school player but small--and not Barry Sanders-type small. At Florida State, he was an underachiever.
So what happened?
We had arranged to have Booker make his college announcement live on ESPN's SportsCenter. Booker's uncle, his adviser, told us before the show that Lorenzo was going to Notre Dame. An hour later, he announced for Florida State.
After his uncle told us that Lorenzo would announce for Notre Dame, we contacted then Irish coach Tyrone Willingham to make a comment after it was official. But Willingham said he couldn't talk about it because Booker's signature on the grant-in-aid hadn't been faxed to Notre Dame. Booker sent the fax to Florida State.
Sure, I was upset that we had been deceived by Booker and/or his uncle. Willingham wasn't too happy, either. But it wasn't the first time that something of that nature has happened and it won't be the last. How many college coaches have been given a commitment from a kid only to see him go to another school?
But I didn't hold anything against him. No grudge. I have dealt with thousands of kids in the last 31 years. Did Booker deliberately deceive me because I didn't rate him higher? Only he can say for sure.
As it turned out, he had five forgettable years at Florida State. Now he plays on special teams for the Miami Dolphins. Good for him. How many kids get an opportunity to play in the NFL? In high school, however, he was overrated--by me and by everyone else. He had good speed and vision but lacked strength and body size to be an outstanding running back at the next levels.
I recall the entire episode in my book, "Football's Second Season." Booker denied ever talking to Willingham and insisted he never said he was committing to Notre Dame. However, when asked about his uncle's role in the issue and why he snubbed ESPN, he declined to respond.