TALLAHASSEE – Despite the trials he has endured this season, Florida State tailback Leon Washington…
Lorenzo Booker Q & A
Opening statement: "I just wasn't really ready to leave to tell you the truth. I sent my form in and they told me third (round) or second (round) if I test good. They told me that if everything stayed the same it would probably be the third. But that's not good enough for me ? my goals are a little bit higher than that. I am only 20-something hours away from graduating. More importantly, I just felt like I wasn't through and once you leave that's it. If I wasn't really done, that's something that I'd have to live with forever that I missed that last year to really try to get that National Championship ring, which is why I came to Florida State."
Q: In some ways, this kind of makes your decision to redshirt really pay off; doesn't it?
A: "Oh yeah. I was talking to my cousin, Curtis, about it. When I first wanted to redshirt, Curtis was like, "there's no negatives about it" and there wasn't. It was really a business decision then because I just felt like I didn't want to take all that time to learn the system and by the time I learned it, we're eight, nine, ten games into the year. Greg (Jones) was having a heck of a year that year so who knew if all those guys would have gotten hurt. I am definitely thankful for it because Leon ( Washington) didn't have the season he wanted last year and I don't think it was his fault, he didn't have as many opportunities as he had the year before that, but the difference between me and him is that I have another because I chose to redshirt and it definitely pays off."
Q: Have you talked to coach (Bobby) Bowden about being more involved in the offense next year?
A: "Yeah. Actually, I had planned on talking to him about it before he came up to me, he kind of started it off. I am pretty sure he sensed it. We spoke about it again yesterday and he just really wants me to be able to prove that I can be consistent as far as carrying the ball 15, 16 times and being productive with it. My sophomore year I was able to do that a few times. I got 20 carries against West Virginia, 19 against Clemson and a few other games I got 15, 16 carries, but as far as carrying the load, getting injured, that's not something I am worried about. I have never had a football-related surgery. It's just a matter of me being able to help the team more with more opportunities, especially with being able to catch the ball down the field as opposed to swing and fly routes out of the backfield."
Q: Did coach talk to you about the role you will have next season as kind of "the guy"?
A: "Which was the most encouraging thing about it. Me being a fifth-year senior, I've got a big responsibility now. We lost a lot of leaders so that's just kind of where guys like me and Buster (Davis) have got to step up, which is what he told me: we are kind of handing it over to you guys. As far as getting the guys ready, because their motivation has to mostly come from us because coaches spend everyday telling us what to do. As far as (the coaches) motivating us, it doesn't get old it just gets routine, you get used to hearing those guys, so the majority of it has to come from the guys that you are actually working with. He said this spring we are going to focus on running the ball and things like that. It's not so much that I had a problem with the scheme as far as running the ball before (but) we are talented enough that if they had just ran it more we would have been fine. Now if they want to focus on the scheme and put us in a better position to run the ball I am fine with that also. The main thing was that I just wanted to be able to do the things that guys like Vincent Young and Reggie Bush did, which is really put the team on their back and carry them to the Promised Land because I feel that I can do that."
Q: What is it you feel you can maybe do this next season to become a first-round draft pick?
A: "Well, I mean obviously there is going to be things that I can work on every year. Nobody has nothing that they can't work on. I feel like if I was given opportunities with my style or running I could have done that this year. Really, for me of course I am going to do everything I can to get better in every way shape or form for next season but if I am just given an opportunity to carry the load, and I am not asking for 25, 30 carries a game. I don't need that. But, 15 to 17 is fine with me so I just think from touches I will be okay along with the work ethic I have displayed." Q: It's probably going to be weird to not have your best friend in Leon with you this season? A: "Definitely. Antone (Smith), Jamaal (Edwards) and Lamar (Lewis), all those guys are good so as far as motivation I am not going to be lacking that. The only person other than Leon was Whitney Lewis in high school that I played with ? those were the only two people that I have ever played with that brought something else out of me to want to make a play. When you see those guys make a play, it makes you really want to go out and compete and not from a selfish standpoint for statistics but you just want to get involved. I am going to have to find that in somebody else this year. Hopefully it's Antone or one of the young guys coming out of the backfield that can push me that way."
Q: How much did you wrestle with this decision to come back or to go pro?
A: "One of the main things was I wanted to make sure (the NFL) knew I was a lot better player than what my stats had shown, especially Leon. I figured if they could see that obviously we were a lot better than the opportunities we got than it was okay. A guy called me and told me. He said, 'We understand you were given this much and we watched tape and we saw the bowl game and judging off of strictly film, nothing changes right now you would go somewhere in the third." He said, 'If you test well, which you've shown that you can do that, than you will probably fall in the second.' It was encouraging but my goals are so high. It was encouraging that they saw that obviously I am a lot better player than I was able to prove this year. At the same time, it just really motivated me to want to come back and prove even more because I feel like at worst case they still know what's going on."
Q: Leon had mentioned that he was encouraging you to stick around. Is that true?
A: "Definitely. Obviously, he feels like I could go higher too, and that was why he came back. He could have left last year and been in the second round but he felt like he was a first-round back and unfortunately he didn't get a chance to prove that this year. He definitely told me I should come back. Leon and I are pretty close and he's gonna tell me things that are unselfish and I really appreciated that."
Q: You have mentioned that you love being at Florida State. What is it that you enjoy so much about Tallahassee? A: "I have never had a problem with anybody. I have never been in a fight. I have never been in a dispute. It's not like I am just a home-body, although I like to stay home, I've got a big box of film, but just going out I have never had a problem with anybody in this city. One of the main things when I was making my decision as far as where I want to go to college; was I going to be comfortable in the city and around the people in the offseason? I couldn't be more happy. I love California but I rarely go home and I never would have thought I would do that. Plus, I feel like the team gets closer and closer every year. Even though we went through something like that last year, it didn't do anything but make people like Drew (Weatherford) and Greg Carr and other young guys display their leadership. It really gets you psyched about next year. With that, I think that the most important thing is that I was just so comfortable with everybody in Tallahassee."
Q: Do you think there is a question that you can be an every down back?
A: "I talked to a few GMs and I talked to Warrick Dunn about it and I think one of the main things about people being every down backs is that they get hurt. Like I said, I have never had a football-related surgery in my life. I have never had a broken bone. Injury-wise I am okay. My sophomore year I really carried the ball on a consistent basis with at least 15 carries a game for a few weeks straight. I would like to do it and obviously they would like me to do it for an entire year. Honestly, I would like to do it. With myself, just wanting to get better as a football player I will be able to prove all of those things."
Q: How key was Warrick in helping you make your decision? How many times did you talk to him and he must have wanted you to come back?
A: "Oh yeah, a few times. Obviously there was times throughout the year I was frustrated with the amount of touches I got and he said that he would like to see me get those carries like he did his senior year and really prove that I am the breakaway threat I think I am and my coaches and teammates think I am. But at the same time, he understood my frustration."
Q: And you know that he had to at one point ask Bowden for more carries?
A: "For sure. And it worked out for everybody (laughing) so hopefully we can work out the same deal."
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