Versatility has been something that has always set former Stanford defensive end Thomas Booker apart from others. Whether it was his athleticism or his intelligence in the classroom, Booker could do a little bit of everything.
Now Booker’s versatility on the football field will allow him to hear his name called in the 2022 NFL Draft. He is expected to be a mid- to late-round pick. Booker is from Ellicott City, Md., and attended Gilman School, where he was a multi-sport athlete. In addition to being a tight end and defensive end on the football field, he also played basketball and was part of the track and field team.
While Booker was an all-around athlete, he also showed off his scholarly versatility at Gilman. He was in the Chinese Honor Society, which was part of a class he took for two years at Roland Park Country School, a sister school to Gilman. Booker said he was interested in learning Mandarin because his sister was in an immersion program in China, and he had visited her.
“My parents sent me to Gilman so I could become everything,” Booker said on Glenn Clark Radio April 20. “I could become the scholar, the athlete, the person in the community, I could develop myself socially. … My big thing was you can become a jack of all trades.”
Booker was a four-star recruit coming out of high school, according to 247Sports, and committed to Stanford in 2017. Booker played in 41 games for Stanford from 2018-2021, totaling 159 tackles, 20.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. The 6-foot-3, 301-pound defensive end was also twice a captain during his four years.
Football runs in the family for Booker. His father, Earl Thomas Booker III, played outside linebacker at Wisconsin in the ’80s. When Booker was growing up, his dad offered a lot of advice about football, particularly about where he should play on the field.
With such great athleticism, Booker grew up playing on both sides of the ball. But Booker recalled the conversation with his father when he realized he would much rather play on the defensive side of the ball.
“He always used to talk to me about the hammer-and-nail relationship of offense and defense,” Booker said. “Defense was always going to be the hammer and offense was always going to be the nail, and you had to decide which one you wanted to be. It became pretty clear to me playing football that I wanted to be the hammer and not the nail.
“Defense is so much more aggressive. It’s where you get to just let the athleticism go. It’s not as calculated — it is to an extent, but at the end of the day you need to put somebody on the ground every single play and I appreciated that about defense.”
Although Booker just played defense during his time in college, his versatility is still very much present. At Stanford, Booker was asked to play various positions on the defensive line, and he thinks that it will greatly help improve his draft stock.
Since Booker is from the Baltimore area, the idea of being drafted by the Ravens has certainly crept into his mind. Booker started out as a Patriots fan, but when he got to be a little bit older, he started to become more of a Ravens fan. Booker said that he had tons of Ravens jerseys, including ones of Ed Reed, Haloti Ngata, Terrell Suggs and even Lamar Jackson.
While Booker would be grateful to be drafted by any NFL team, he even admitted that it would be an incredibly special moment if he were to be drafted by the Ravens.
“Being a hometown kid, to think about putting on that purple and black and gold,” Booker said, “just seeing the storied history of that franchise and the fact you’re doing this in front of people that have seen you grow your entire life and have helped you grow, I don’t even understand how to describe it. It wouldn’t even be surreal, it would be unreal.”
For more from Booker, watch the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Stanford Athletics