2015 Pac-12 Football Media Days: Former non-qualifier Booker overcomes academic adversity
BURBANK, Calif. – Utah running back Devontae Booker’s accomplishments on the football field in 2014 were quite impressive – his 1,512 rushing yards (second all-time in Utah single-season history) and 10 rushing touchdowns (tied for sixth for a Utah back in a single season) earned him first-team All-Pac-12 recognition.
But Booker earning first-team Pac-12 All-Academic honors might be even more eye-popping when considering that he had been ruled an academic non-qualifier at three different universities – including Utah.
As FOX Sports’ Stewart Mandel detailed in a May feature on Booker, Booker signed with Washington State in 2010 but didn’t score well enough on the SAT. He then signed with Fresno State in 2011 but was still a non-qualifier. After playing a year of junior college ball in 2012 at American River College in his hometown of Sacramento, Booker signed with Utah in 2013 but couldn’t enroll at the university for the fall because he didn’t complete a course on time.
Now those academic troubles are a thing of the past. Booker officially joined the Utes in January 2014 and was named to the Pac-12 All-Academic first team for rocking a 3.38 GPA 11 months later.
“It means a lot,” Booker said about being named to the conference All-Academic team. “I met a lot of great people [at Utah] that I could use as a resource to help me get some work done or whatever it was I needed help on, so they play a huge part in me having the success I did with the academic stuff.”
With his academics in order, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham could reap the benefits of having No. 23 on the field, as Booker helped the Utes to a 9-4 season and their first bowl game in three years.
“It’s great to see perseverance pay off,” Whittingham said about Booker’s long, winding academic road. “He stuck with it – he could have thrown in the towel many times, and he refused to do it. He kept fighting, he kept scrapping, and I think the future is very bright because of it for him.”
Booker had a chance to enter the 2015 NFL draft but decided to return to school. One reason why? To finish his sociology degree, which he is set to get in December.
“It was really important,” Booker said about how much graduating played into his decision to return to Salt Lake City. “Just by the journey I took going through junior college and getting out of junior college stuff and ending up here, I might as well just get my degree and finish strong.”