Cory Booker may not be getting far in the 2020 Democratic primaries, as the New Jersey senator is polling in the single digits well behind the main contenders in Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
There is no doubt about one thing, though: Booker will be the best athlete on the stage Wednesday evening in Detroit. The 50-year-old played four years of college football on scholarship at Stanford from 1987-90.
According to SB Nation, he would’ve been a four-star recruit at the time. For those outside of the college football world, five-stars are considered elite recruits, while four-stars are typically the best 300 high school prospects of that year.
Booker didn’t play football until his freshman year of high school. As a senior in 1986, he was named the Gatorade New Jersey Football Player of the Year, and also earned a spot on the USA Today All-USA high school team as a defensive back. That year, he caught 46 passes for 589 yards and six touchdowns, and he made 53 solo tackles and nine interceptions as a safety. He was an AP all-state DB in high school, too.
He played high school football at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan in New Jersey. While other alums such as Falcons receiver Devin Fuller have made the NFL, Booker’s desire to go to Stanford was strictly academic.
“I always joked that I got into Stanford because of a 4.0 and a 1,600,” he said to USA Football in 2018. “I averaged four yards a carry and had 1,600 yards rushing. It would’ve been a reach school for me to get into without football. But, because I was the most overrated high school player in that year as a high school All-American, it opened up that door.”
He choose the Cardinal over offers from Notre Dame and Michigan. He settled in at tight end for head coaches Jack Elway and Dennis Green. He didn’t record any stats until 1989, grabbing seven passes for 37 yards.
The next season, he added 13 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown. Overall, that’s 20 catches for 199 yards. His best game came in a 4-catch, 47-yard outing in an upset over top-ranked Notre Dame in 1990.
One of his highlights came when he juked out Todd Lyght, a 2-time All-American and 12-year player for Rams and Lions in the NFL.
Basically, his high school potential didn’t pan out at the college level. For a candidate polling very low heading into Wednesday night at the Fox Theater, he understands the parallel.
“This definitely has echoes of many past experiences of my life where, again, here I find myself a David walking onto a field and having to fight Goliath,” Booker told CNN. “This feels very familiar to me.”
While he hasn’t connected with Democratic Americans at large in this election, one of his teammates at Stanford has talked publicly about his admiration for Booker.
“I’m from Ohio, and there’s a reason why I’m bringing that up before talking about Cory. [Stanford] was a predominantly white school,” his teammate Paul Nickel said per Quartz. “I hadn’t been exposed to many African Americans. [I was] kind of a naive kid from the Midwest. He’s from New Jersey, and he approached me and he was highly intelligent, very smart guy, just nice to be around. Very helpful. Showing me around campus when I first got there.”
Booker will face off with nine other candidates at 8 p.m. Eastern time on CNN.