[media-credit name=”Bryan Butterfield” align=”alignright” width=”300″]Josh Booker[/media-credit]This Saturday, Weber State University opens up the 2011 season against the University of Wyoming Cowboys. As the Wildcats look to improve on last year’s six-win, five-loss season, one player to keep an eye on is redshirt sophomore running back Josh Booker.

Last year as a freshman, Booker had 91 rushing attempts, and ran for 550 yards and two touchdowns. He led the team in yards per carry with six yards, and came in third in yards per game, averaging 50 yards each game. He also caught 13 passes for every 97 yards and one touchdown. He came in fourth on the team for all-purpose yards, with a combined 647 rushing and receiving yards.

Booker’s best game came at the Wildcats home opener against the University of Northern Colorado Bears. The Wildcats ended up winning the game in a wild 50-47 finish in the fourth overtime. Booker carried the ball eight times for 90 yards, including a 61-yard run and a touchdown.

Booker attended Putnam North High School in Oklahoma City, where he played under Coach Bob Wilson. As a senior in 2008, he made the Oklahoma “Top 50 List”, earned All-State honors and rushed for more than 1,100 yards, averaging 9.4 yards per carry. Booker said that throughout high school, he was told the odds were against him moving on to play college or professional football, but that didn’t stop him from working as hard as he could to make it to where he is today.

“I never took it for granted,” Booker said. “I took pride and always cherished each day that I’m playing college football . . . it means a lot to me.”

In 2009, Booker signed his letter of intent to play for WSU. He sat out that season as a redshirt. In college sports, the term “redshirt” is used to describe an athlete who does not participate in competition in any sport for an entire academic year in order to lengthen his or her period of eligibility. Per NCAA rules, athletes are allowed no more than four seasons of competition per sport. If an athlete participates in even one play, that season counts against their eligibility. However, athletes are still allowed to attend school and participate in practice with the team without fear of penalty. In Booker’s case, he redshirted his freshman year in order to not waste a year of eligibility, as he was projecting to be at best the third running back, behind former Wildcats Trevyn Smith and Bo Bolen.

Head Coach Ron McBride said he is expecting big things from Booker this year. McBride said he feels that Booker brings a lot to the team and adds something extra to WSU’s running game.

“He is strong, physical, explosive out of the backfield and a hard worker,” McBride said.

Booker says that if he is as perfect as he can be every day on the field, the NFL will come to him. But if he does not make it to the NFL, he has a plan for what he would want to do after college. He is planning on forming a business with a couple of his friends, but what it is about remains a secret.

“I can’t tell you about it now,” he said with a grin, “but I’ll tell you about it later.”

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