Neither a redeye flight from Los Angeles nor a lack of sleep -- not even overcast skies, humidity and rain that greeted him in Tallahassee, for that matter -- could dampen Booker's enthusiasm.
"This is where I wanted to be," Booker said and smiled.
"I think I got it better than most guys that report, because a lot of guys don't really get to go to their childhood favorite. A lot of guys really don't have that opportunity to be able to pick where they want to go. I had that chance. I always wanted to come here, it just took a little while. This is where I wanted to go even before the (recruiting) process started. I've wanted to go here for a while now."
Of course, Booker's decision to attend FSU over Notre Dame last February was quite the event, televised live across the country on ESPN. Although he did some last minute wavering, Booker, 5-11, the National Player of the Year from St. Bonaventure (Calif.), said he simply followed his heart. It came down to the Irish and Seminoles for Booker but the lure of his childhood favorite was just too much to overcome.
Booker remains comfortable and confident about his decision. As fate would have it, the two teams meet this season at Doak Campbell Stadium Oct. 26.
"I knew I was going to Florida State but I kept finding reasons not to go because it was so far away," Booker said.
"I have family in South Bend. I decided to go to Notre Dame the night before but it still wasn't my decision. A lot of people were putting stuff in my head that Notre Dame is this and Notre Dame is that. I was like okay fine let me go to Notre Dame to make other people happy. I put the Warchant on all of my CD's and I listened to it on the way to school (national signing day) and I was like, I can't go to Notre Dame."
Instead, Booker has jetted across the country to begin living his childhood dream of playing for the Seminoles. And he does want to contribute after running for 2,878 yards and 50 touchdowns as a senior. Booker was tabbed the nation's top running back, according to The Insiders, Parade Magazine and Rivals100.com..
"Of course I want to play early and that's exactly why I am here early," Booker sad.
"I am trying to learn as much as I can so I can help the team out as much as I can. Individually, I have some goals. But my main goal, I want a championship ring to be honest. I probably won't start setting individual goals until I get in and see how I do against that Florida State defense. If I can run against my own defense, I will be able to run against anybody I think. I have to get in and get used to the flow of the game. Depending on how well I play through the whole preparation (preseason) before we play Iowa State will depend on what goals I have."
Booker also realizes the 'Noles are top-heavy at tailback. Co-starters Greg Jones and Nick Maddox return. Willie Reid, who missed last season with a broken leg, also is back following a solid spring. In addition to Booker, FSU signed two other highly touted tailbacks in Thomas Clayton and Leon Washington. Barring injury or position changes, at least one and probably two of the newcomers will be hard-pressed to get on the field.
The polite and personable Booker understands the process.
"There would be disappointment because everyone wants to play," Booker said. "It's hard to take off a year of football when you love it so much. I've been playing football for more than half of my life. It's going to hit me hard to sit out a year. But I think I am good enough to step in and contribute. And if something happens to where I am not doing as well as I want to and the coaching staff isn't happy with my performance, then I will redshirt. There's nothing wrong with that at all.
"As a matter of fact, it could be the best thing to happen. Michael Vick (former Virginia Tech quarterback) is pretty much the best example. Redshirt, come in and learn the system and you are that much better without losing a year. The only negative thing is you want to play so bad but you have to kind of suck it up."
EAGER TO START
Booker will bunk with fellow Californian Travis Johnson for the time being before moving into Burt Reynolds Hall. Booker also will have some familiar company next week with the arrival of his cousin and a childhood friend. Additionally, his high school coach is scheduled to work the Seminoles' summer camps that begin next month. Booker admitted he couldn't wait to get to Florida, but he also knows he will miss California at some point.
Still, he gets comfort from his decision to attend FSU.
"I couldn't wait for it to come because it's so far away," Booker said.
"Like I said earlier, I am going to get a little homesick but I don't think I will be too homesick because this is always where I wanted to go. It's not like I am going to think I made the wrong decision. It's not like I am going to think well, I should have went here and I could have done better there. That's not the case. I wanted it to come fast because I always wanted to be here. I also know it's a long way away and I know sometimes I am not going to see my family like I want to. I was fine with being patient."
A laughing Booker said he knew he had arrived in the Sunshine State when he stepped off the plane around 11 a.m. Wednesday morning. Thunderstorms aside, Booker was nearly leveled by the humidity.
"I've heard a lot about the humidity," Booker said. "I know it's going to be something bad, because it's hot outside and it's raining. It's not like that in California. It's usually a little chilly if it's raining outside. That air. ... that's a sunny day in California. But, like I said, I was ready to get here. I was pretty much finishing everything up. It (summer break) really didn't start getting fun until I was getting ready to leave. And my last day was actually my funnest day. That's a little disappointing, but I have to do what I have do to -- sacrifices have to be made if you want to be successful."
And Booker, whose favorite player is former Seminole Peter Warrick, plans to be successful. That's why he was watching film less than three hours after arriving at the Seminoles' coaches offices.
"I couldn't watch film at home because nothing there could help me out," Booker said. "Nothing that can get me ready -- that's why I had to come here early, so I could get up here everyday and watch film. I am a film junkie. That's what I do." And as far as Warrick is considered, Booker broke into a wide grin, saying, "Pete will always be my favorite player. I think my game -- people always ask me who I compare my game to -- and I can't compare it to any running back because I don't think I run like any running backs I have seen. I think I can cut like Pete -- not quite as good yet -- but I think I can get there. I mean I think I am just Pete. I just play tailback."
While Booker didn't waste any time upon his arrival, Johnson, who grew up 15 minutes away from Booker and knows his family well, offered his friend and new teammate some advice.
"Be patient," Johnson said.
"That's one thing J-Ren (Jamal Reynolds) told me when I came in. And B.A. (Brian Allen) told me when I came in. And Roland Seymour. Be patient, because when the time comes you will have the time of your life and you will do well. It's like Greg (Jones). Our true freshman year, he didn't get the kind of carries he wanted.
"Nothing can get you prepared for your first season in college. There's nothing that you could possibly do to get you prepared. There's very few people who come in and do well off the bat. Just be patient because college first is a mental game. It's a physical, fast-paced game, but you have to be patient."