Former NFL/MLB Draftee Offers Perspective On Getting First Job
For NFL fans around the globe, the NFL Draft has become a year-round extravaganza. Since the last snap out the Super Bowl, the team with the first overall pick is officially “on the clock.” In this year (and last year’s) case it is the Cleveland Browns. As soon as the team secured the top pick in the draft, “experts” and draft pundits near and far have been making their projections and setting the Twitterverse ablaze.
While the media and fans seem to only consider the player they want for their respective team, the toll it takes on the players is also immense. For these draft-hopefuls, their every move is on display while essentially trying to secure their first job. Talk about interview nerves! Unlike the rest of us who go through the first-job interview process out of the public eye, these 21-22-year-olds have no idea where they will pack up their belongings and move across the country to begin their, hopefully, long and prosperous career.
There are 32 teams in the NFL, comprised of 53 players, which amounts to 1,696 active players at any given point during the season. Each year, a crop of 254 new players are selected from the college ranks during the draft and even more sign free agent deals. Considering the average NFL career spans only 3.3 years, these individuals are then forced to find jobs while still usually in their early to mid-twenties. Like most of us, NFL players work tirelessly to land their first job, but once their playing career comes to a close, they must be ready for a second career in the “real world.”
Each major sports league has an annual draft of their respective top prospects. Not many people have the opportunity to say that they have been drafted into the professional ranks, and even fewer are able to say they’ve been drafted by TWO leagues, and played at the top level of each. Josh Booty is one of those select individuals.
Booty was drafted in the first round (fifth overall) in the 1994 MLB Draft by the Florida Marlins. He reached baseball’s highest stage and played for the Major League team, which won the 1997 World Series. After a four-year professional baseball career, Booty decided to pursue another one of his passions – football. He enrolled at Louisiana State University where he spent two seasons as the quarterback for the Tiger football team. He was then drafted in the sixth round (177th overall) by the Seattle Seahawks and began his NFL career. In the span of six years, Booty not only was drafted into both the MLB and NFL, but also won a World Series championship and also took snaps in the NFL.
Looking back on his career as a professional athlete, Booty has a unique perspective on what the 2018 NFL Draft hopefuls are going through while waiting to hear their name called and start their “first jobs.” We are fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to speak with Josh and discuss both of his draft experiences and hear any advice he would have for first-time job seekers and elite athletes alike. Plus, we got to have a little fun and see what he would do if he had the top pick in this year’s draft. Check out the entire interview below:
What was your draft experience like? What were the differences between the MLB and NFL Drafts? How did you celebrate?
In baseball I knew I was going to be a top pick, so it was pretty much pre-negotiated to the point where I did have everybody around, it was a party. I felt like the Marlins were going to for sure take me in the first round, it was like the fifth pick overall and it was just because (Wayne) Huizenga (former owner of the Marlins) and I guess my agent and (Dave) Dombrowski at the time was the GM for the Marlins and had talked a ton and they were willing to pay me the money that it would take for me to not go play college football and baseball at LSU. The teams that drafted before the Marlins, the first four picks, were not going to pay the type of money that I got, so it was kind of arranged by (Jeff) Moorad, who was with the famous super-agent (Leigh) Steinberg, he was my agent through all that. He pretty much put that deal together for me to land in an organization that was a new franchise with no real talent ahead of me at the position that I was going to be playing at third base, so I was looking forward to fast-tracking my way to the Big Leagues at that point. Coming out of high school that was a big deal for me to get drafted early.
Then on the football side it was a completely different view. I thought I was going to get drafted third or fourth round, I fell all the way to the sixth. So I’ve been drafted real high and I’ve been drafted not-so-high, and the way they treat you is just two different ways once you get there, which is a big part of pro sports and I knew that going in because I’ve been around it for so long. But, in football, Jerry Jones (Owner/President/GM of the Dallas Cowboys) had called me the night before the draft and said we’re probably going to take you in like the third round, we’re eyeing you there. I’m like “okay, perfect, I’m going to go down the street,” because I was living in Shreveport, LA at the time and Dallas is about three hours away, so I was thinking “man, this is going to be fun if I get drafted by him.” Well, they’re showing the draft on TV and I’m really just around my family, brothers and stuff like that. Jerry Jones and Dallas pulled the trigger and drafted Quincy Carter from Georgia in the second round. I had played against Quincy in college in the SEC, but he went with Quincy. So I was like “oh man, this is going to be tough now, where am I going to go?” Because I really thought I was going to be drafted by the Cowboys in a decent spot, but then I kind of kept falling, no quarterbacks were being taken. It was kind of a bad year for quarterbacks. (Mike) Vick was the number one pick and (Drew) Brees was like a supplemental kinda guy, late first/early second, then there wasn’t much left. We were all kind of in a group, there were about four of us, and we all kind of fell. So that was a totally different experience, but I really wanted to get to the NFL and left college a little early so. It would’ve been fun to be a top top pick in football, I felt like if I was able to play another year in college I definitely could have been.
What are the major differences between the collegiate and professional game for both sports – baseball and football? What was the hardest part adjusting to both, essentially adjusting to your “first job”?
Well, baseball was my first time being away from home, so it was the homesick deal. Being 18, 19 years old and up in the New York Penn League playing Minor League Baseball, and I loved baseball but, man, you’ve got to really love it because you’re thrown into a setting where you’re a high draft pick and thrown in with all the college-aged guys and older. I wasn’t thrown in Low-A ball or extended spring training with all the younger players. I went straight to where the college kids were and with an older group, but the homesick part was the toughest in the beginning for me. Just coming out of high school and knowing that football season was going on, my dad was a football coach, my brothers were playing football back home and I had to go to instructional league and do winter league stuff, so just knowing that football was completely removed from my life and it had been such a big part of my life. So just realizing that, “man, I’m just a baseball player now,” was a little tough.
On the football side, going to Seattle was really, really fun for me, because we had a great group of guys when I got there. Matt Hasselbeck was there, (Mike) Holmgren had just signed him to be the starter and he was my roommate. Then they brought (Trent) Dilfer in and we just had a fun quarterback room. Brock Huard was there, a guy named Travis Brown was there. There were five of us in camp and we just had a blast. Pro football is much more demanding in a way because you have to study all day, everyday and there is nothing else going on besides football. In college you have the school work and more down time, so you don’t watch near as much film, but because I played for (Nick) Saban and Jimbo (Fisher) at LSU I was used to a demanding coaching style and Holmgren was very demanding. He had coached so many great quarterbacks, so he didn’t have patience for bad QB play. We all had to deal with that, but I didn’t get a ton of reps either, so it was a disappointing first camp. But, they had just signed Matt and he had never been a starter, so he had to get all the reps to try and get ready for the first game, so it was like a crash course for the team to get unified with Matt at the quarterback position. That was a different deal for me, just sitting there and doing a lot of watching. Being a late-round pick you do a lot of watching. In baseball, shoot, I was a first-round pick and they threw me in the fire and I had Big League call-ups, I think a month or two after I got drafted I was in the Big Leagues traveling with the team. So I was instantly in “The Show” whether I was ready or not. In football I felt like I was a year or two away because there was no emphasis on me like there was in baseball.
How did the whole draft experience prepare you for your life after sports?
I think it was good. You’ve got to accept what happens. A lot of times you can’t dictate what goes on. You can work out and try as hard as you can, but at a certain point teams have to fall in love with you, you have to get lucky. It’s really a crazy dynamic. In football, you’re only as good as the people around you and I had experienced that even at LSU. We weren’t very good that first year, and man we struggled, but then we got a good staff and Saban recruited good. Then we won a lot more and I had a different level of players around me – NFL-type guys. You’re only as good as the people around you and in the NFL you don’t get to choose your team, they choose you. The market that you go to is such a big deal too, because of how you can use it to make money and different things like that. Going to New York or Los Angeles, you’re an instant celebrity, but going to a smaller market you’ve got to be a star to get any endorsements. So, that is just the nature of the beast. You have to get lucky, have the right people around you, and you’ve got to be good when you get the chance.
What advice would you give to the 2018 NFL Draft class?
Be in tip-top shape, because the NFL is grown boys. They aren’t messing around and don’t have time for guys who show up late, aren’t reliable, make mistakes or are overweight. Some of the guys that have come before and not made good first impressions is a big deal. You don’t get a lot of time, unless you’re the first pick overall and you get a couple years. I mean, try to stay healthy, do all the right things, pay attention, listen, learn, do all that stuff.
What did you learn after your first draft experience (MLB) and how did it influence your approach to the NFL Draft?
I don’t know if there was much carry over because they were such different situations. Baseball, I saw money signs, to be honest. I was thinking I was going to make good money because I was a first-rounder, it is not the money that they make now, but back then my dad was a coach and a preacher and we’d never had a million dollars in the bank, so it was a big, big deal for me and my family. In football, I had already been there, done that (gotten drafted). You just try to find a good spot to land and try to make good impressions. It is crazy how in sports, it is such an entertaining game, you’ve got to be able to show your skillset and be a show-off, but some people’s personalities aren’t really like that. I think that helps a lot of players if they have the right look and act the right way. I don’t know, there is a lot to it.
You spent some time with the Browns during your NFL career (2001-03). If you were in the GM-chair, what would you do with the 1st and 4th overall picks?
Oh man. That’s a great question. I’d take Saquon Barkley and Minkah Fitzpatrick (at 1st and 4th, respectively). I think they’re the two best athletes on offense and defense and I know those quarterbacks are all viable options, but they’ll need some time and Cleveland wants to get it going now. But I think Sam Darnold or Barkley is where I would go (at 1).
What was the strangest question you were asked during the pre-draft process?
As a quarterback you get asked completely different questions than you would if you were a receiver, a DB, a D-lineman or whatever. I think at quarterback, you’re the CEO automatically if you’re the starter of this franchise, the city, the organization, whatever. I think there’s a lot more that gets asked of a quarterback for sure, compared to anything else. I don’t remember if there was one specific thing, but it is just everything gets asked of you. It’s mostly leadership questions – do you enjoy watching film? Do you enjoy hanging with the guys? Stuff with your offensive lineman, you know? You get labeled and stuff like that. They really just ask you everything. They completely dissect your personality, and they not only ask you, but they ask your high school strength coach, if you’re the top pick overall, they’re asking so many people about you and your behavior. I think if you answer those questions right and you’re honest, then I think you have a really good chance of making a good impression. How you answer those questions has a lot to do with where you end up going. All it takes is one team to fall in love with you.