By John Gillis
Brotherly love abounded in the Booty family of Shreveport, Louisiana, as brothers Josh, Abram, John David and Jake established themselves as perhaps the greatest collection of high school football players to constitute one family.
The patriarch of these gridiron standouts – Johnny Booty – was himself a standout high school quarterback who had the rare opportunity to coach his four sons as they ascended the high school ranks.
Three of the brothers – Josh, John David and Jake – played quarterback, while Abram excelled as a receiver. Josh, John David and Abram played at Evangel Christian High School, while youngest brother Jake matriculated at Calvary Baptist High School.
The eldest of the quartet – Josh – played from 1990 to 1993. He concluded his high school career as both the nation’s all-time leader in career passing yardage (11,700 yards) and in single-season passing yardage average (365.4 yards per game in 1992). In the process, he became the first high school player to throw for 10,000 career yards, and he also threw 126 touchdown passes. Josh also accumulated 12,105 total career yards (11,700 passing yards and 405 rushing yards), which ranks eighth all time.
In recognition of his efforts, the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Josh was selected USA Today Offensive Player of the Year, and National High School Player of the Year by six sources, including Parade Magazine and Football News. A great baseball player as well, he is believed to be the only high school athlete to be chosen national player of the year in two sports (football and baseball).
Abram, who played football at Evangel Christian from 1993 to 1996, set national career records in receiving yards (5,867 yards), receptions (302) and touchdowns (83). The 6-2, 185-pound Abram went on to play wide receiver at Louisiana State University from 1997 to 1999 and at Valdosta (Georgia) State University in 2000, and played for the National Football League (NFL) Cleveland Browns in 2001. During his three-year career at LSU, Abram caught 117 passes for 1,768 yards.
John David passed for 8,474 career yards from 2000 to 2002, including 4,144 in 2002. He completed 555 of 864 attempts (64.2 percent) and threw 88 touchdown passes. Interestingly, John David left Evangel Christian a year early to enroll at the University of Southern California (USC), but already had enough credits to graduate.
At USC, the 6-3, 213-pounder led the Trojans to Rose Bowl victories in 2007 and 2008. Following his college career, John David was drafted by the Minnesota Vikings, and he also played for the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans.
Youngest brother Jake, who graduated from Calvary Baptist Academy in 2008, was an all-state quarterback and was chosen Louisiana player of the year. The 6-foot, 165-pounder led Calvary to its first undefeated season and to its first victory over Evangel.
According to Josh, there were a number of reasons for the success of the Evangel Christian football program.
“We were ahead of our time from a coaching perspective,” Josh explained. “Our no-huddle, wide-open 4-5 wide attack was something of an anomaly in the early 1990s. We were the ‘BYU of high school football’ at the time. We were breaking records and scoring points at a record pace. It was a fun brand of football to watch.
“Our school was a start-up program when I was a freshman, so we were very proud to build upon that and to win Evangel’s first state title in 1993 in the Louisiana Superdome.”
During that state-championship 1993 season, the careers of senior Josh and Abram intersected.
“It was great to be able to play with Josh,” Abram said. “Two plays in my career stand out the most. When I was a freshman, I caught the pass that gave Josh the all-time national passing yardage record. The other one was catching the touchdown pass when I was a senior that set the national record for most touchdown passes caught.
“Although I later played in front of 94,000 fans at LSU and at Lambeau Field (the NFL Green Bay Packers’ home stadium), there’s still nothing like that Friday night feeling when those lights go on in a high school game. Your parents, aunts and uncles, those guys you grew up with – they’re all there. I was very blessed to have great coaches – that were like father figures. I never had as much fun as in high school ‑ there’s something special and unique about playing at that level.”
Despite being nine years younger than Josh and six years younger than Abram, John David still looked up to them and benefited from their examples.
|John David Booty
“I think my success came from having two older brothers that I always tried to emulate,” John David said. “My strengths as a quarterback I think were arm strength and accuracy. What was so special about my high school experience was that my dad was my coach. Getting to spend every day with him is something I’ll never forget.
“I feel that my greatest accomplishment came during my sophomore season. We had played West Monroe the fourth game of the season in front of about 45,000 people and got smoked. But, we met them again for the state championship and won.”
Father Johnny, who was a 6-foot, 190-pound quarterback at Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Woodlawn High School, earned all-state and all-American honors in high school. He played college football at the University of Arkansas and Mississippi State University.
Shorty thereafter, Johnny became a born-again Christian and decided to go into the ministry. After 10 years in Starkville, Mississippi, he moved his family to Shreveport to coach at Evangel Christian.
“The experience of coaching three of my sons at Evangel was one of the great blessings of my life,” Johnny said. “We have memories to last a lifetime!
“After about 10 years at Evangel, I helped start a new high school program in Shreveport ‑ Calvary Academy. I was athletic director at Calvary until last May when I took a new direction in my life. I am now the executive director of Every8Seconds (Every8Seconds.org), a non-profit organization committed to getting pure water and power to desperate people all over the globe. We have developed technology that can clean up water from contaminated rivers, lakes and ponds and make it pure for human consumption.”
At the same time that Johnny left Evangel Christian to accept the Calvary Baptist position, Jake was entering high school. As a result, Jake experienced mixed feelings about making that transition.
“At first, it was very hard leaving Evangel, because that’s where most of my buds were,” Jake said. “It was also hard because I grew up watching my brothers playing there and winning state championships. So, from a young age, I started dreaming about leading a team to a state championship as well.
“Once we got to Calvary, it was a big change because the school was just starting a football program. I looked at my dad and said ‘No way this is the school I’m going to.’ And my dad looked me in the eye and said ‘God will provide and build something special here.’ And sure enough, He did and it ended up being some of the best memories I’ll ever have.
“I feel that my greatest strength as a quarterback was growing up in ball and having three brothers who played at the highest level. So, the amount of football knowledge I had built up in the game enabled me to be farther ahead than other kids my age.”
While the logical assumption is having four sons with exceptional football ability is already a wealth of riches, the Booty talent string might not have completely ended its run, as Abram’s son, General, might carry that mantle into the next generation.
“General is 11 years old, a good-sized kid with height, a straight-A student, and a great leader,” Abram said. “With regard to his name, when I was young, I was into the military. Also, being a football fan, I knew that being a field general is cool. So, when we were expecting General, I told my wife ‘We’re going to do it’ (name him “General”).
“General plays both quarterback and cornerback. He’s a good mix of both Josh and me. He’s built more like Josh and can really run.”
John Gillis is the associate director of development of the NFHS. If you have any comments or articles ideas, please forward them to Gillis at firstname.lastname@example.org
| The Booty family is (back row, left to right) Abram, Jack, Josh, John David
and Johnny, and (front row) General.