Posted on Mon, Jun. 04, DOLPHINS | LORENZO BOOKERA fresh start for Dolphins' rookieRunning back Lorenzo Booker's career at Florida State never became the steppingstone he envisioned, but he's hoping he can make up for lost time as a Dolphins rookie.
BY JEFF DARLINGTONmailto:jdarlington@MiamiHerald.com
Tom Ervin / For the Miami Herald
With Ricky Williams' status in question, former Florida State running back Lorenzo Booker, above, is likely to have a chance at making an early impact.This hotel room is starting to get to him. It's just too temporary. Too restricting. Too unsettled.
That's why Dolphins running back Lorenzo Booker can't wait to get out of here; the reason he found a real estate agent as quickly as he could to help him find a new crib to start his new life in his new city.
''I can't take it, man,'' said Booker, currently lodged at the local spot in Davie where rookies typically stay until they find more permanent housing. ``One week in this place is enough. I need to find a house as soon as possible.''
Booker's antsy actions might seem a bit impatient, considering linebacker Channing Crowder once went nearly 120 nights in the same hotel before his first season. Then again, maybe this rookie has a legitimate reason for the eagerness.
No doubt, Booker is ready for a fresh start. Sooner. Not later.
''Things didn't go as well as he had planned in college,'' said Sharon Hill, Booker's mother. ``It really took a toll on him, but it taught him all about the ups and downs of the game. As soon as possible, he's ready to prove that nothing can stop him now.''
It has been more than five years since that celebrated day in February 2002, when Booker -- as a high school superstar -- was prepared to prove nothing could stop him then, either.
Standing before ESPN's cameras in suburban Los Angeles to declare on a SportsCenter special where he would attend college, Booker picked Florida State, fulfilling a childhood dream. Not Southern Cal, the hometown choice. Not Notre Dame, the historical up-and-comer.
The wrong decision? Booker won't admit so much, even after five years of unfulfilled expectations at a school that experienced an unexpected, painful slump. But he will admit this: Watching Reggie Bush succeed at USC certainly didn't feel good.
''It was difficult to watch him at first because he was in Southern California, and he was being used in ways that I only wished I could,'' said Booker, who had just four 100-yard rushing games in four seasons on the opposite coast of his hometown of Ventura, Calif.
``I really didn't see a player that I felt like I really resembled their style until I watched Reggie Bush play.''`THE OLD ME'
For some time, Booker would agonize over Bush's success (''the old me,'' he says). It hurt to watch Bush win that Heisman Trophy, the one he was supposed to get. It hurt to see him get that national championship, the one he always envisioned winning.
Booker eventually got over it. He had no other choice.
''The opportunities weren't there like I wanted them to be,'' he said.
Of course, Booker must accept some of the blame on his shoulders for his struggles in college. But Florida State's dismal offensive performances of the past few years might have hurt his ability to break free even more. That's why the verdict is still out on him.
Will he blast into the NFL as the high school star from St. Bonaventure High or the oddly utilized athlete from Florida State?
''The big test for him is going to be when the pads come on [in the NFL],'' Dolphins coach Cam Cameron said. ``Every back in this business eventually has to pass protect, to some degree. I've had a lot of backs his size that became good pass protectors and obviously good runners.''
When the Dolphins landed Booker with a third-round pick in April, they undoubtedly snagged one of the speediest, most versatile running backs in the draft.
Setting aside his college statistics -- which actually did rack up to more than 2,000 rushing yards -- Booker proved to be a playmaker as a receiver, a return man and a running back. But he's also a smaller back (5-11, 193), and some wonder how much of an NFL workload he can handle.
It appears he will soon find out. With running back Ricky Williams' return to the team still lingering with continued doubt, Booker likely will get an even greater opportunity to quickly show what he's capable of.
''I think he can [make an immediate impact],'' Dolphins running back Ronnie Brown said. ``He's doing a great job, learning everything on the move. He catching the ball well, and he isn't making a lot of mental mistakes.''MORE CARRIES
Booker, who couldn't hide his angst about Bush's success, now admits he can't hide his excitement about the opportunity before him. He will get more carries than initially expected, more opportunity to be utilized the right way -- something he surely didn't get at Florida State.
'I'd be lying if I said I didn't anticipate getting more carries because of [Williams' absence],'' Booker said. ``At the same time, I was looking forward to learning from him. . . . But obviously, I'm excited about having the opportunity to get more touches early.
``A lot of guys don't get that chance.''
Last December, to finish his college career, Booker had one of his best games at the Emerald Bowl in San Francisco, with 208 yards of offense (117 receiving) and two touchdowns.
It was a display of versatile talent, proof that Booker's potential to be a star similar to former Florida State running back Warrick Dunn remains intact. Now, as he settles into a new place in South Florida, Booker hopes his career is finally ready to take off -- the way he always expected it would five years before.
''You either sink or swim, and I chose not to sink,'' he said. ``A lot of times things don't work out like you want them to, but the fact of the matter is the Dolphins chose not to pass on me.
``They made a great decision in doing that, and now it's time for me to help the Dolphins make all the other 31 teams pay for it.''