BALTIMORE, Md. -- So how did you spend your summer vacation?
For Gilman School (Baltimore, Md.) junior tight end/defensive end Thomas Booker, the Terps' 2018 offeree, there were classes, “Principles of Economics” and '”African American Science Fiction Literature” at Stanford in an enriched academic summer program for the last eight weeks.
"Yeah, so Stanford was awesome, and intense. I took eight weeks of undergraduate classes there," Booker said on his first day of Gilman two-a-days on Monday, fresh after returning home to Howard County just Sunday evening. "Two really. really special classes, I really enjoyed them. But basically (my summer) schedule there was wake up, study, go to class, work out, go to sleep (laughs). But the people there were incredible, people from all different places....Spain, China, Florida, anywhere. But it was just a great time, people with the same ambitions as me academically, so it was good to be around people like that."
And those ambitions have already translated into a 4.0 GPA in honors courses at Gilman, where Booker rates among the Top 10 in his class. All for the 6-foot-4, 255-pounder who is racking up early football offers, including the Terps, for not only his athletic ability, but his high academic prowess, which always come first.
"It was good to go to Stanford and experience that, but on the other hand I was really missing being back here with my guys," he said of how the experience may impact his college selection process. "So it was good to be out there, but my main focus was to stay on top of what I have to do to be the best with my guys back here, to make sure we get some good 'Ws' this year."
Booker could not work out at the Stanford facilities, only on his own per NCAA rules, so he stayed in shape at the student gym and conditioning on his own, where he actually dropped about 10 pounds. He saw his former Gilman teammates, and Cardinal incoming freshmen, Devery Hamilton and Dorian Maddox on a regular basis.
So far, Maryland, Michigan and Stanford rate high on his list, with the first two already offering. Others that have offered include Duke, Pitt and BC. Booker also visited Penn State unofficially last spring and they are in frequent touch.
Booker and family may be on campus Aug. 21 to check out Terps camp.
"From what I have seen they are a great group of guys down there," Booker said of the Terps new coaching staff. "I know a lot of guys down there, lots of familiar faces like Kasim (Hill) and Cam (Spence) and the others, so it would be awesome to go down there with them and see them again. But definitely an energetic vibe now I am getting from the new staff, and I really like the direction they are heading now. They are definitely, definitely going in the right direction with so many positives going on."
Booker has been offered by UMD as a tight end, while others like Michigan, where his former head coach Biff Poggi is now on staff, have offered as a defensive end.
He hopes to study either business/finance, or digital technology at college, highly intrigued by the new forms of mobile technology rolling out seemingly every day. Especially intriguing is digital technology and marketing, "and how Apple markets their technology. How Apple advertises their technology. How phones work, operating systems, those kinds of things are really intriguing to me," Booker said. "So this summer I was surrounded by tech start-ups out there. You got Google here, Facebook another way, Snap Chat another way."
Then there were those summer classes at Stanford, including the Black Science Fiction class, which Booker said provoked some deep discourse for sure.
"It's not big, there are only 4-5 authors very big in that genre to begin with," he said. "And that is why it was such a specialized class. And there were only like 4-5 people in the class, too. But one book was 'Black Empire,' and what that was about....so imagine the Black Panthers but on steroids. That's what it was about. So it was kinda a crazy conceptual read, and I talked a lot in that class because there were so few of us (laughs). But it was a very high discussion-based class. But it was good, it was good."
As for on the field, and his multiple positions, Booker said of where he may project at the next level:
"My thing is I am a 'football player,' first and foremost, so I will play wherever people need me. But I do like scoring touchdowns," Booker quipped. "I do like that a lot, but if an offense are not using a tight end as much of a pass-catcher, well then defense is where I am at."
Booker comes from excellent bloodlines, be it academic or athletic. His father, Thomas, played football at Wisconsin after a decorated career at Gilman himself back in the day playing with Biff Poggi as well as new Gilman head coach Tim Holley. His older sister played tennis at Princeton and is now in law school at Duke. His pop's career as a Badger overlapped with current Terps defensive analyst Al Seamonson, who was a receiver in Madison, Wisc.
And on all the change of late at the Roland Park school, the younger Booker said:
"I am really excited about what we are going to do this year as I think a lot of things have changed, but at the same time a lot of things are the same. Like the brotherhood we had before, like the 'earned not given' mentality. And I think a lot of games, guys....we are going to get better as the season goes on and guys step up and into their leadership roles, juniors, seniors, everybody on the team. So I am very excited to get started this year."
Booker, who also plays basketball at Gilman, said he will dig in deeper into recruiting once September 1 rolls around.
"Right now no leaders. I am just looking for schools, for now, that combine fantastic academics and fantastic athletics," he said.