How do you feel spring practice has been going so far? Has anyone stood out in your mind?
I think spring practice has been going good. All the young guys, the sophomores from last year, Steve (Smith), even Dwayne (Jarrett) being freshmen, Ryan Kalil, all those guys have really stepped their game up a lot this year. It seems like we've almost just had a bye week during the season and we just kept going. Everybody's moving so fast and knowing their assignments, so it's really been fun to get out there and get the opportunity to work with these guys.
What are your goals for spring practice?
My thing is that I need some reps. I haven't gotten the opportunity to get a lot of chances, so getting into rhythm and just playing, throwing, moving, dodging in the pocket, I'm just really excited to get the opportunity to step my game up.
How big of a difference for you is spring ball this year compared to last year?
Coming out of high school, my feet were kind of lazy, and I also wasn't getting really good separation from the line of scrimmage on my drops. That's one thing over the year I really worked on getting my feet quicker. I feel like I've accomplished that; I can always get better, but I feel my feet have gotten much quicker. Mentally, I feel like I'm at a better stage too. I'm going into my third year, and I've kind of been around, so I'm just really excited to get out there and really figure everything out.
What do you think you need to improve on the most?
I just think my team management skills and you know, letting the team know that I mean business and that I can win too. We know that (Matt) Leinart can, but I want to prove that there's a second guy in case something happens to him, I can come in and we can still keep going. Also, just managing the game and the clock, those sorts of things. I feel like I can make all the throws necessary, and I know I'll figure out all the concepts, but just really team management and game skills.
How is the transition of the new offensive coordinators going this year with Coach Sarkisian and Coach Kiffin?
We're using the same terminology for the most part. They've changed up some things. They're young guys, so they have new ideas. Coach Sark, he was in the NFL last year, so he's got some stuff from the Raiders. I think everybody's just really excited right now. It's their first opportunity to show who they are, and I'm kind of getting my first opportunity to show where I am. It kind of works out really well with me, Coach Sark and Kiffin. I've been talking with these guys a lot, going to meetings with them. I think it's a good thing. I think we'll be just fine and that they'll do a good job and that we'll have another fun season.
How did you feel when both Coach Norm Chow and Coach Carl Smith left this offseason?
Definitely I was bothered by it at the time. Obviously, Coach Chow has done so much, and at that time I didn't know who they were going to bring in. I had Coach Sark the first year, then he left, but I really enjoyed Coach Smith. He was actually with my brother (Josh Booty) for three years in Cleveland; he was his quarterback coach. I had known him for several years when I had gone up to visit my brother in Cleveland and got a chance to really get to know him. I almost looked up to him as a father figure. He's a good man, he knows football, and I think it was a really good experience for me to have him. There was a lot of stuff that I learned last year, especially with my feet and different things that he taught me which I think has improved my game going into this year.
They are definitely two guys that are going to be missed, but they had to do what they had to do for themselves and their career and their families, and I'm sure they made the decision they thought was best. Now we have Coach Sark and Kiffin as our coordinators, so it's somebody we've had before and we know their styles. It's sad to lose them, but I know we got two good guys.
What is something about Coach Chow that you will never forget?
The way he handles his guys. When a guy makes a mistake, he's not trying to embarrass him. He wants him to really understand what's going on. I've been around and seen a lot of coaches that are just down your throats if you mess up, and almost I think players don't want to work harder for that coach. I thought that was one of his strengths. He was a calm guy, and he understood the game and the players. He's a player's coach, and I really do appreciate him for that, especially being a quarterback.
You were heavily recruited out of high school. What made you make that decision to leave high school early and enroll at USC?
Well, it's a long story. My dad, he got fired (from Evangel Christian High School); he was my quarterback coach and had been the quarterback coach for thirteen years. He had coached my older brother who was a quarterback and Brock Berlin, both national players of the year. He knew what he was doing, he was experienced, he taught a lot of guys and did a lot of summer camps. We were best friends since he was not only my father but also my coach.
We were together all the time, and I had thought that he had been done wrong. I had already taken enough credits and stuff, so I just figured why not go ahead and go on to college if possible. So I had to take a summer school class, but I was able to enroll a year early. I think it was a good move. I feel good about it now. I had my regrets early on; I missed my friends and family. I felt like I had to stick behind my dad and do what was right, regardless if it even hurt me or whatever, I felt it was the right thing for me to do for my family and my relationship with my dad – to stand behind him at that time.
How serious did you think you were going to be the starter that year?
I knew that at a college with the magnitude of a USC, they had good athletes and players. I mean, I didn't know (whether I would start or not), I just felt that USC was the place for me, whether it was that year or three or four years down the line that it was the place I wanted to be at. I always wanted to live in Los Angeles. My brother had just moved out here. Coach Chow had been so proven with quarterbacks and Coach Carroll was so great, I thought it was just the place for me.
Were you disappointed when you did not become the starter and it became more apparent that Matt Leinart was going to be it?
No, I really wasn't. I mean, I was here only thirty days before the first game. You have to know that's tough to do. Most guys are there all summer, but I had to take summer school, so I couldn't come. I wasn't really expecting anything. I didn't even feel ready; I didn't feel I was prepared because I hadn't had enough time to practice. Obviously, nobody knew what Leinart was going to do at that time, but he went out and did more than anybody could ask – Heisman Trophy winner.
I still feel this is the place for me, and I think I'll get my chance.
Did you ever consider transferring because Leinart was going to be the quarterback for the next few years?
No, I never considered it. I heard all the time from other people and stuff like that, but it never went through my mind. I love this team and they're my best friends. Regardless, if for some reason I was never to play again, I would get my degree from USC, at the worst, so it was a win-win situation.
What was going through your mind when you got injured against UCLA?
Not much, just the fact that I knew I was going to miss out on the bowl practices, which is a big opportunity for the back up guys because it's such a long period of time without playing that they give the starters some rest. It was a big opportunity for me to get a lot of reps. That's the only thing I was the most bummed about, not necessarily being hurt, it was the lack of reps because of injury. I wasn't able to throw; I threw like a day before the Rose Bowl.
Does a quarterback ever get mad at an offensive lineman when they give up a sack and get hurt?
Usually you don't know what actually happened because you're not looking right at that guy. It can be frustrating, but you can't take it out on them. You're going to throw some incomplete passes, and they're going to miss some blocks, it's just the way it goes. But for the most part around here, they don't miss too many, and I hope we can keep it that way.
How has working with the quarterbacks on USC's roster (Leinart, Cassel, Hance, etc.) made you a better quarterback? How have they helped you?
I just think they all have their different parts of their game that they install on us young guys. Leinart is just the most experienced and he's been around so much and has been in so many situations. Hance too, because he played at Purdue before he came here. Having them there, especially freshman year, teaching me the playbook and walking me through plays, especially when the coaches aren't out there and we're just throwing, going 7 on 7 ourselves. Cassel's teaching me the whole scheme and Leinart's teaching me game management. They really all bring something to the table, so it was really fun having them around.
Who has been the biggest influence on you on the team?
I'd have to say Ryan Kalil. He's been my roommate ever since I've gotten here. His family has really taken me in. They always offer me a place to go on holidays when I can't get back home. Hands down, I'd have to say his family has had the biggest impact on me.
You're an out of state guy – how did that affect you as a freshman?
Well, I just think the big thing was that I was from the South. It's completely different, whereas if I had been from Arizona or something, it wouldn't have been that big of a change. People are a lot different here. It took me awhile getting used to the different personalities, actually fighting traffic, learning my way around a big town. It was definitely difficult for about a year, but this is my home now. Shreveport, Louisiana is just a place I go on vacation; LA is my home and I love it. I want to live here even when all of this is said and done.
You had a brother, Josh Booty (former NFL quarterback for the Cleveland Browns) living out here as well; how did that help the transition?
Oh, it's definitely helped, to just be able to get away. Just to get down there even once a month, just to see family, and I can drive 45 minutes. I don't have to pay 800 bucks and a four-hour plane flight. It's really good to get away and kick back. I kind of feel like I get away, so it's definitely helped having him out here.
You mentioned being from the south. What's the difference, football-wise, about playing in the South and playing on the West Coast?
I guess it's kind of hard to say because I did high school in the south and college on the west coast. But as far as high school out here and high school back there, it seems like the center of attention in Louisiana is just football on Friday nights. Out here, there's definitely a lot of good teams and they all play good football. Out here, you'll find teams that pass a lot too, which is kind of cool, because we were like the only team in Louisiana that really passed the ball efficiently. It's good to see teams out here are really throwing it around and have big time gunslingers too. It's fun to watch on TV.
Being out of state and enrolling at a different time than those in your class, did you feel like a sort of loner here?
No, I really didn't because I came in with the freshman class at least. If I had been here the spring before, like the Tings, I may have felt a little out of place. But I came here with all the freshman guys, so it really worked out. I got to meet everybody for the first time when they came too, so we were all new to it.
What would you recommend to potential out of state recruits on what to expect and how to adjust to coming to college?
I just think that they need to assert themselves more in the school socially. That's something I did not do. I'm not a big party guy, but I wish I would have gotten more involved and met a lot more people early on. I did not assert myself in the university early on. Now I have; I just wish I would have started earlier. Just get out and meet everybody. See all that USC has to offer.
I know your last name has gotten a lot of recognition – what do you think of that (both as being the younger brother of an NFL quarterback and the fact that your last name is, well, Booty)?
It's funny. I get a kick out of it. Sometimes, I feel weird even saying it at restaurants and stuff. But it's something that I'm proud of because my dad has done so much to make the name what it is. And both of my brothers have accomplished so much and set high standards for that name, and that's just something that I want to keep up there, even for my younger brother to have to follow up.
It's fun. I get some kicks out of it. Every now and then you'll get somebody who'll say "I bet you get made fun of a lot." Half the time when I say it, people don't believe me, they say "No, really, what's your last name?" But it is funny. I get a good kick out of it sometimes.
What's the worst joke about your name that you've heard?
Really, I don't know how bad it can really be when it's Booty without cussing or something. But I really don't know that I've ever really been cracked on. I'm sure it's happened a million times behind my back. I mean, people say "shake your Booty" or stupid stuff like that, but nothing really mean or nasty though.
What do you think of those looking forward to a Booty – Bush – Hancock backfield in the near future?
That could be interesting for some of the t-shirts and banners that we'll see in the Coliseum. (Laughs)
What's something that nobody knows about you?
I really like cars.
What has been your favorite memory so far being a Trojan?
I would definitely have to say the two national championship games. But I guess one of the coolest things, coming from the national championship, was getting to go to the White House and taking pictures with the President, which we get to do again in a couple of weeks. That's just stuff you see on Forest Gump, you know, something that not many guys get to say that they get to do.
So far, what has the Trojan Family meant to you?
They've helped me out in every way they can. The coaches have been so honest with me and my family. Even people outside of the program are always welcoming me, telling me to keep my head up and that everything will be fine. They're always encouraging me and being positive. I've been really pleased with everybody; they've treated me well. I hope my brother gets a shot to come here and have the same playing experience.
Fictional scenario: all the quarterbacks are in a race (You, Leinart, Cassel, Hance, and Rocky Hinds) – who would win?
Who throws the farthest?
That could be a three-way tie between Rocky, me, and Cassel.
Who do you think has the best hands on the team?
I've seen a lot of great one handed catches, but I'd have to say that as far as games go, that Dominique Byrd has to make some of the most unbelievable one handed catches. I've seen them all make some good ones, but as far as games goes, he's got the highlights. He takes it.
If for some odd reason, the national championship had to be decided by a 4x4 relay, what four players would you pick to run it?
(Without hesitation) Reggie…Eric Wright, Justin Wyatt, and either Willie Buchanon or John Walker. Those are all pretty fast dudes.
Is there anything you would like to say to all the Booty fans out there?
I love USC. That's for all those people who had questions or thoughts of anything happening to me. I plan on being a Trojan for life.
Thank you John David Booty. Good luck this spring and next season, and thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us.