Chris Booker Hoping to Continue Playing Football Professionally After Appeal for Additional Year at Ohio State Was Denied

Although Chris Booker won’t get the opportunity to play another season at Ohio State, he’s hoping his football career isn’t done yet.

The former walk-on wide receiver and special teams ace had hoped to play one more season with the Buckeyes in 2022, and was told by Ryan Day and Brian Hartline he would be placed on scholarship if he received an additional year of eligibility. But after already using the extra year of eligibility that all players received from the NCAA last year, Booker’s petition for one more year of eligibility was denied.

Booker believes he has what it takes to continue playing football professionally, however, and he’ll look to prove that at Wednesday’s Ohio State pro day, where he’ll work out for NFL scouts and put his skills on display.

“I know in my heart that I am good enough,” Booker told Eleven Warriors last week. “And I also know that I have things waiting for me if football doesn’t work out. But I know that football is what I want to do right now. ”

Just a few years ago, the notion of Booker becoming a scholarship player at Ohio State or participating in an NFL pro day would have seemed far-fetched. When Booker transferred to Ohio State in 2017 after a redshirt year at Dayton, he had no expectation of continuing to play football. But after joining Ohio State’s club football team in 2018 and becoming an NCFA All-American, Booker landed the opportunity to play for the varsity Buckeyes.

By the end of his Ohio State career, Booker became one of Ohio State’s top special teams players, playing the third-most special teams snaps of any Buckeye last season. He earned special teams player of the game honors after forcing a fumble in kickoff coverage in Ohio State’s 2021 win over Purdue, and he capped off his Ohio State career by making the game-sealing tackle on Utah’s final kickoff return in the Rose Bowl – even though he almost didn’t even end up getting to play in that game after contracting COVID-19.

“I hadn’t practiced for 10 days, 10-11 days, and basically had one day there,” Booker said of the Rose Bowl. “I was so tired after that game. I’ve never been more tired in my life. But it made sense. It made a lot of sense. Coming from sitting out to then being able to play and then having that impact, yeah, I think that kind of sums up my career. ”

With a loaded depth chart in front of him at wide receiver, Booker never got the chance to play much on offense for the Buckeyes. He caught only two passes for 27 yards in his Ohio State career, both last season. But the 6-foot-3, 193-pounder’s special teams play showcased his athleticism di lui, and pro day will give him an opportunity to demonstrate his ability to catch the ball and run routes.

Booker believes the film he does have showcases his speed, change-of-direction quickness and toughness, while he also believes his football mind can be an asset to an NFL team. He spent time practicing at cornerback at Ohio State in addition to playing wide receiver and special teams, and he says he was able to do that because of his aptitude for the sport.

“I know the game really well. I’ve been studying it, I study it in my off time, I study different wide receivers in the league, I studied cornerbacks to know what they want to do against wide receivers and then I study wide receivers to know what they want to do against cornerbacks to help put in my mind the process of what they’re thinking about, what they’re trying to do and how they try to accomplish that, ”Booker said. “And I think that’s very important. You need to be able to think the game as much as you need to be able to play it. ”

Chris Booker said his favorite memory of his Ohio State career was forcing this fumble in kickoff coverage against Purdue.

Booker has been training for Wednesday’s pro day at Ohio State alongside two other NFL draft hopefuls, Antwuan Jackson and Demario McCall, while he’s been catching passes from former Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones, who will be throwing to Booker at Wednesday’s pro day. Booker says he and McCall have been pushing each other throughout the workouts as they’ve competed to beat each other’s drill times, and he says training with Jones has been a great resource with Jones’ past experience playing in the NFL.

“He’s been in the league, so he knows, he’s knowledgeable about splits and how we run routes and timing and stuff. So it’s good picking his brain di lui and listening to him when he lets us know about how we run a certain route and the timing and what he wants it to look like, ”Booker said. “So I think we have a really good mind in Cardale, and his balls di lui, it’s a very good, catchable ball and I feel really good about how we’re gonna perform next Wednesday, especially with him throwing.”

Considering he wasn’t even playing varsity football when he first arrived at Ohio State, Booker knows he’s fortunate just to get the chance to audition for NFL scouts on Wednesday. And even though he didn’t get to catch many passes as a Buckeye, he’s grateful for the role he was trusted with playing at OSU.

“I try not to think about it too much, because I know it’s one in a million,” Booker said. “Not many guys get to be in my position. And I’m really grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been getting. Even just the opportunity to play on the team, that was a blessing, and then obviously now, amazing opportunity coming up. So yeah, I feel really lucky, I feel really blessed. And I’m just glad that I still get to play the game that I fell in love with when I was a young kid, and hopefully I get to play it for as long as possible. ”

“I know in my heart that I am good enough.”– Chris Booker on his goal of playing in the NFL

Whenever Booker’s football career does come to an end, he’s planning to pursue a career as a sports psychologist. Having already graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Ohio State, Booker intends to get a master’s degree in clinical psychology with a vision toward working as a psychologist for a sports team.

Booker said both he and his mother have overcome mental health struggles in the past, and through those experiences, he learned that he wanted to help young people who might be going through similar situations.

“I realized that I really like helping make people feel better and be their best selves,” Booker said. “There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. And at some points I needed help. And I know other people need help, too. So I wanted to be able to provide that, and I feel like my story itself, going from being on the club team and then not playing football and then making something out of my career shows that you could do anything, really, that you set your mind to. ”

If it’s up to Booker, though, his career in psychology will come after a career in the NFL. And while it might be out of his control di lui whether he’ll actually get the chance to play in the league, he’s trying to stay focused on what he can control – which starts by putting his best foot forward on Wednesday at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

“If it’s gonna happen, it’s gonna happen. And if it’s not gonna happen, then it’s not gonna happen, ”Booker said. “I really don’t try to press and make myself anxious about ‘Man, I gotta go crazy, I gotta be perfect on pro day.’ No, I’m just really just trying to go out there and be me, be the best player that I can be in that moment, and then end it up doing good enough to show that to all the other scouts and all the people that are there and proving that I’m good enough to do this.

“So I want to be prepared when I get there, but I don’t want to be anxious and I don’t want to be pressing to do something and end up messing up. I just want to be me, I just want to go out there and do the best that I can in that moment. ”

Ohio State’s pro day is scheduled to begin at 11:30 am Wednesday, and Eleven Warriors will be inside the Woody Hayes Athletic Center to provide full coverage of the day’s events.

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