Vikings take USC quarterback Booty in fifth round
By Dave Campbell
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The latest quarterback to come from USC does not have a Heisman Trophy, but John David Booty certainly comes with plenty of polish.
The Minnesota Vikings moved up to draft Booty in the fifth round on Sunday, adding a player already familiar with their West Coast offense after five years under Trojans coach Pete Carroll.
Tarvaris Jackson need not worry about his job, but Booty — despite lesser credentials and fewer accomplishments than predecessors Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart — does bring a remarkably accurate arm and a head start on coach Brad Childress’s system.
"It’s all the same stuff that all of these teams are doing in the NFL, so I think there’s no question that it has benefited me for the next level," Booty said on a conference call with local reporters.
Though Booty brings more of a pro-ready profile than Jackson — a second-rounder in 2006 — developed at Alabama State, the selection of Booty actually further confirms Minnesota’s current commitment to Jackson.
The Vikings had the chance to take Louisville’s Brian Brohm or Michigan’s Chad Henne in the second round on Saturday, but they moved up to draft Arkansas State safety Tyrell Johnson instead.
As a late-rounder with a history of injuries and questions about his ability to throw deep, Booty will find himself challenging Brooks Bollinger for the No. 3 spot behind Jackson and backup Gus Frerotte.
Still, Childress and vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman raved about Booty’s accuracy and described an aggressive push to get him once the fifth round unfolded.
"A guy can throw it through a wall. He may have a (strong arm), but can he put it where it needs to be put at the time it needs to be put there?" Childress said. "That’s what he does bring."
Minnesota swapped spots — No. 150 for No. 137 — with Green Bay and gave up a seventh-round pick in the process. Spielman said he discovered "three or four" other teams were chasing Booty while calling around for trade partners.
Carroll, of course, downplayed the significance of his now-former pupil falling to the fifth round. Booty was the eighth USC player drafted.
"That really doesn’t matter, and John knows that," Carroll said on a conference call. "It’s what you do with the opportunity that you get. John’s revved up and ready to go."
Palmer won the Heisman in 2002 and Leinart led the Trojans to back-to-back national titles, but Booty didn’t have the same success in his senior season. He missed three games because of a broken middle finger, after hurting his wrist and back earlier in his career. He went 20-3 as a starter, however, and finished with a blowout Rose Bowl victory over Illinois.
Booty said he was told to expect to go in the second or third round, but he had no qualms about this.
"I definitely think I have the ability to be a player in this league," Booty said.
After all the trades were made, including the blockbuster earlier in the week with Kansas City for defensive end Jared Allen, Minnesota was left with only five picks — and just one came in the first four rounds. Later in the fifth round, the Vikings took Florida State defensive tackle Letroy Guion. In the sixth round, they chose center John Sullivan from Notre Dame and Jackson State receiver Jaymar Johnson. Johnson came via the pick obtained from Jacksonville for wide receiver Troy Williamson.
Guion started only 14 games over three seasons with the Seminoles, but family financial concerns prompted him to skip his senior year and declare for the draft. One of 36 players suspended by Florida State from the Music City Bowl game as a result of an academic cheating scandal, Guion had 12 1/2 tackles for loss during his college career. His strained quadriceps muscle kept him from completing all the drills at the combine, which didn’t help his stock.
On Sunday, the 6-foot-4, 303-pound Guion wasn’t worried about that. He was so excited to be picked he said he was shaking.
"I don’t know what to do. I’m just happy that I made it," Guion said by phone with "the whole family and half of the church" hanging out in the background at his home in Florida.
"I can’t hardly talk, I’m so nervous," he interjected at one point.
Guion’s nickname is Baloo, in honor of the big bear in the Disney film "The Jungle Book."
"I would love to keep that name if it’s no problem with the Vikings," Guion said.