One Day at a Time - Quiet Booker Lets His Play Do His Talking
Originally published Sept. 22, 2007 in the W&M game program"Hard work pays off" is one of those overly used sayings in sports. However, the saying could not be used in a more perfect situation than that of Barry Booker's. As a freshman, Booker found himself behind a seemingly endless list of talented players at the defensive tackle position. Booker knew he was going to have to bide his time until he would get his chance. "It was hard watching the games and wanting to play, but I knew I would get my chance. I just had to be patient," Booker said. Booker's patience paid off. He won the starting position in the spring of 2006. The Amherst, Va., native had to compete for the spot against two other players and came out on top in the battle. "Barry won the job and hasn't really looked back since," added defensive line coach Charley Wiles. Booker didn't get his chance by just waiting out the competition; he worked hard and brought a work ethic to the team that the coaches admired and that other players looked up to. Even though Booker has the starting position, he still continues to push himself harder than ever. "Barry practices hard, he is unassuming, and he doesn't feel like he has arrived," said Wiles. "He trains as if there is always someone wanting his job." Booker never lost sight of his goal of becoming a starter. The redshirt senior came in and worked hard in the weight room to add strength and become a better athlete in 2006. Booker's "one practice at a time" mentality not only gets him motivated to give it everything each practice, but it also gets him through the week. "I try not to look at practice and workouts as a weekly thing. That would make it too hard to handle," Booker said. Instead, he takes each lift and each practice one at a time. It makes it easier for him to give a hundred percent each day. It also helps him to keep things consistent, which is another aspect of his work ethic. He tries to never slack off one day and then go all out another. "It doesn't work that way. I have to work hard at getting better each day, not just when I pick and choose," Booker said. This past offseason, Booker really showed his intentions for the benefit of the team. Each year, strength and conditioning coach Mike Gentry sets individual goals for the players, making them reach their maximum efforts in the bench press, squat, push press and power clean. This helps everyone on the team improve their strength and agility so they may become the best they can be at their individual positions. As you grow in the Virginia Tech football program, your improvements become bigger and your goals are harder to accomplish. In his fifth year, Booker was six-for-six on meeting his goals. "Barry really showed his intentions and work ethic this past summer camp," said Wiles. Wiles also said that it is not an easy feat to accomplish. With each year, the gains get harder to come by, so Booker really proved his worth in his final year. One would think that with all the effort going into each day, Booker would be exhausted. However, he likes to keep things light and have some fun too. On the field, Booker and his buddies get a kick out of watching the coaches. "It is funny to watch them when they goof off or make mistakes. My favorite moment was when Coach Wiles tripped over the tackling bag in practice," Booker said with a slight grin. When Booker can manage some free time from his grueling schedule of practices and classes, he likes to play Xbox and PlayStation with his buddies. "We really do not have too much free time, but when we do, I like to just relax and have fun with the guys," Booker said. Like many college students, Booker's future is uncertain. The NFL is always a possibility in Booker's mind. This year will be a very important year for Booker. "I'd like to take this as far as it will go," Booker said. "Will Barry play after Virginia Tech?" Wiles asked. "That is still out there and yet to be seen, but he is certainly a prospect." Between having a very solid career as a football player at Tech, Booker also has a very solid career as a student. Graduating this December, Booker will earn a degree in apparel, housing, and resource management. If football does not pan out for Booker, he is unsure of where he will go and what he will do. "I'll just take it one step at a time," said Booker. As a senior on the team, Booker becomes a role model for the younger players. He does so in many ways, but mainly by being a leader on the team through action. "Barry made plays last year and he will make plays this year," Wiles said. "Automatically, if you play, you're thrown into a leadership type role because other guys look up to you." He may not stand up in front of the team every day and preach to them or get in a player's ear if he is need of encouragement but he does the right things and lets his play on the field talk for him. "He started out where a lot of the younger players are now," Wiles said. "He understands where they are and is able to guide them to the track he is on." "Book," as his friends know him, tries to mentor the younger players and bring them along. He considers this part of his role from a teaching standpoint. "I have already been where they are now, so I try to help them out whenever I can," he said. For most student-athletes, role models tend to be the professional athlete or even a teammate, but not for Booker. His hard work ethic stems from a much closer influence. It is his mother that Barry looks up to; his focus and determination comes from her. She set the tone for hard work in Booker's life, being a single parent raising him. "My mother has really been a great influence for me," he said. "She did her thing and I respect her for that. She really gave me guidelines as to how to live my life and go about things." Booker started all 13 games last year on the nation's No. 1 defense. He was third on the team with 52 tackles, including 7.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks. Bothered by a sprained toe in the preseason, he is back to full speed and even intercepted a pass from his defensive line position in one of the scrimmages. He is once again one of the important cogs in a defense that features eight returning starters and is considered one of the tops in the nation. "Becoming a starter was an accomplishment I wanted to achieve before leaving Tech," Booker said. Now as a redshirt senior, Booker is looking forward to finishing his college career and his last season with a bang. "It is my last one. I'm just trying to take it all in."