A Rose Bowl Rout of then–No. 3 Michigan catapulted the University of Southern California to front-runner status for this season, thanks largely to QB John David Booty’s masterful performance in the 32–18 victory. The 6’3”, 215-pound Heisman hopeful completed 27 of 45 attempts for 391 yards and four touchdown passes. “He’s a natural thrower,” coach Pete Carroll has said of his senior signal-caller. “His execution, his accuracy, his decision-making are great.” Time will tell if the Louisiana native can bring the Men of Troy “home” to New Orleans—for the BCS championship.
MF: You come from a family of football players: Your dad and your brothers all competed in the SEC. But you chose to go to a Pac-10 powerhouse.
JDB:I really wanted to change things up a bit. I was around the SEC for as long as I can remember. But it’s got very run-heavy offenses. The “west coast” offense is more pro-style; we love to throw, which was obviously best for me.
And now you’re the big man on campus at USC.
Actually, you’d be surprised. Not too many people come up to me. I think everyone assumes that it’s the same as it was with Matt [Leinart] and Reggie [Bush], but the limelight was definitely different for those guys.
Speaking of Heisman winners . . . any pressure to snag the heavy hardware?
No doubt there are high expectations. [Matt and Reggie’s] shadows still linger. As a player, especially in a skill position, winning the Heisman was always something I’ve dreamt about, but not something I think about often.
What muscles does a quarterback have to focus on in the weight room?
Legs and core. After [my back injury], I wasn’t able to work on my legs the way I wanted to, and it showed up in games. I would get fatigued easily, and when I threw, my legs wouldn’t be beneath me. So legs would be the biggest thing, but core plays a big part, as well. I work at least 20–30 minutes a day on my core: I do a lot of planks, side planks, weighted ball throws into the wall, drills on a med ball, and knee- ups. I also lift with a weighted vest on and do explosive drills, like jumping and running, with cables attached as I’m pulled from behind.
Quick—what’s in your fridge right now?
I get my meals delivered, so they’re stacked in there, along with some water and OJ. I was working out hard but not seeing results. To be the kind of athlete I wanted to be, I switched to a meal plan in the off-season. I’ve really started to see a difference, especially in the abs and chest area. Right now I’m about to eat some salmon, veggies, and a baked potato.
What stands in the way of USC winning it all?
We’re going to see each team’s best game. We’ve got the players—that’s not the issue. But we need to play smart, sound football. One turnover can get you beat on the road. Our main focus is winning the Pac-10, then let the chips fall where they may.
What are you going to do differently in your second season as starter?
Preparation. Last year was my first real go at it. I’d see stuff on film, but it’d take seeing it once or twice in a game before I’d catch on. Toward the end, it started to come together, so when I got to the Rose Bowl, I was ready to go. This sea- son, I’ll be more prepared.
Being the leader, you’re called upon to carry the team on your shoulders. Do you find that a blessing or a curse?
A blessing. I thrive on gaining the guys’ respect. At the end of the day, it feels really good to have your team behind you. When it’s fourth down and the game’s on the line, they want the ball in your hands.
What’s one thing that would surprise people about John David Booty?
I have a tattoo. It says big dreams. Growing up, my dad would tell me, “You could do whatever you want, but you gotta dream big. Set your goals high, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” I wanted to have that as a reminder, so that every day when I get up, I see it on my arm and know what my goals