For as long as he can remember, Brad Booker has wanted to play football for the University of Kentucky.
That feeling made it easy for new UK coach Guy Morriss to convince Booker, a 210-pound linebacker from Bowling Green, to become the fourth in-state player to verbally commit to sign with the Wildcats in February. Booker called Morriss on July 9 with his decision.
"I’ve kind of always wanted to go there and it didn’t take much to convince me," Booker said. "Coach Morriss seemed pretty excited about my decision, too."
Booker made an unofficial visit to Kentucky last month on UK’s Senior Day. He liked not only the coaches, but also the facilities.
He also had no ill feelings toward Kentucky as some thought he might over UK’s recruitment two years ago of teammate Rob Reynolds, who eventually signed with Ohio State and played on special teams for the Buckeyes as a freshman last season.
"I never paid much attention to that," Booker said. "That didn’t have anything to do with me."
Instead, Booker saw an opportunity for possible early playing time based on UK’s need at linebacker. He had 95 tackles, three quarterback sacks, two fumble recoveries, three interceptions and two blocked kicks last season.
"I think what I do best is go all-out after the football," Booker said. "I trust my instincts to help me make plays. I like to get in there and make something happen. I hope I can go to UK and play early, but mainly I just want a chance to eventually play and help Kentucky."
Louisville, Cincinnati, Arkansas, Tennessee and Toledo were other schools Booker briefly considered before making his visit to Lexington.
"I’m sure no one around here is very surprised at my decision because I’ve said all along that I would probably go to Kentucky," Booker said. "I never really considered anywhere else that much."
Booker said the recent verbal commitments of running back Arliss Beach of Ashland and defensive back Randy Driver of Glasgow influenced the timing of his decision. Earlier, Paul Webb of Johnson Central became UK’s first 2002 commitment.
"I saw a couple of other guys commit and thought it was the right time for me, too," Booker said. "I just hope more players will do the same thing now."
Two other players being recruited by UK from western Kentucky that Booker played against twice last year are teammates Justin Miller and Bo Smith of Owensboro.
"I would love to see them come to Kentucky," Booker said. "They are both exceptional athletes. They are fast and strong. They probably are as good, if not better, than anybody I’ve played against."
Booker already has the necessary score on his college entrance test for freshman eligibility.
RANDY DRIVER , a 6-foot-1, 204-pound free safety from Glasgow, Ky., is going to play his college football for Kentucky.
"I want to get the process over with and I feel very comfortable at Kentucky," Driver said. "I want to concentrate on football and school next season, not what college I’m going to attend."
The NCAA investigation and the coaching change have done nothing to deter Driver from Kentucky. He stated he was never a big fan of former head coach Hal Mumme and has met with and liked the new coaching staff and players.
"They are so friendly with each other and unity within the coaching staff is tight," Driver said. In fact, Driver never really considered another school after he met the staff despite being recruited by Louisville, Notre Dame and others.
Driver said that he has enjoyed the recruiting process but it was already getting old.
"I think it’s fun to be in the spotlight and it’s funny that people know you but you don’t know them," he said. "But after awhile it becomes too much."
Driver had seen the recruiting process up close and personal when his brother and former Notre Dame football player Tony Driver was the state’s most highly sought recruit. Tony is now with the Buffalo Bills in the NFL.
With a year left to prepare for college, Driver already benches 270 pounds and squats 420. He plays center for the basketball team and runs track, competing in the 100-meters (10.6 seconds), 200-meters (22.1 seconds) and the one-mile relay. With all his talent he prefers being redshirted so he does not waste a year.
"I think I am ready physically but it’s the mental part I want to prepare for," he said. "There is such a big difference between Glasgow and college football."
There has also been some talk of him growing out of free safety and becoming an outside linebacker.
Driver is a good student and currently has a 2.5 G.P.A. He took his first A.C.T. in June but has yet to receive his score.
ARLISS BEACH. , a 6-0, 185, RB/Athlete from Ashland Paul Blazer gave a verbal commitment during his Senior Day trip to the University of Kentucky campus. Beach also played point guard on the Tomcats’ Sweet Sixteen basketball team, and runs sprints for the track team.
During his junior season, Arliss ran for 1,700 yards and 25 TDs while earning All-Area honors. Arliss maintains a 3.8 GPA, and is looking to major in Business or Sports Marketing while at the University of Kentucky.
Beach joins Johnson Central defensive lineman Paul Webb in giving a verbal to Kentucky.