Kevin Boothe...

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Rookie Boothe makes transition from Ivy League to NFL
Cornell grad working on technique at guard, tackle


PHIL BARBER




NAPA - Kevin Boothe is serious about his hotel administration degree, but forgive him if he can't offer a detailed critique of the Napa Valley Marriott's services and facilities.


"Honestly, I haven't seen too much of the property," Boothe said after practice one day recently. "Pretty much the room, right through here (around the locker room), practice field and the meeting rooms."

Who has time to grill the concierge when you're making the leap from Div. I-AA college football to the NFL? Not Boothe, a sixth-round draft choice with a wide body, a sharp mind and a whole lot of catching up to do.

Boothe flattened the competition at Cornell, where he was a four-year starter and a three-time All-Ivy League selection. But he did it almost exclusively on brute size (he was measured at 6-foot-5, 315 pounds at the NFL combine in February) and strength. As coach Art Shell put it Wednesday: "When you're a massive man in a little league, with small people, then you can dominate."

Here in Napa, Boothe is suddenly a fairly average-sized lineman going against defenders who have been honing moves for years. But he has a sympathizer in Shell, who was pretty raw himself when he joined the Raiders as a rookie from Maryland Eastern Shore in 1968.

"He's getting probably more coaching than he's ever had in his life in the short period of time since he's been here," Shell said of Boothe. "Because in the Ivy League, you don't have spring practices and things like that. ... Selfishly, it's good for us that he didn't have it, because now we can train him like we want to train him."

Not that Boothe hasn't encountered challenges before.

He grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Plantation, Fla., but made the grades to attend Cornell. He showed up there weighing about 365 pounds after suffering an ankle injury in high school, redshirted and had lost 50 pounds by the time spring practices began the next year. Boothe broke both hands during his junior season (including one that he injured while tucking in his jersey); he missed only one game, though a friend had to take notes for him in all his classes.

Boothe got past all those obstacles on the strength of a solid upbringing. His parents, Jamaican immigrants, lived in Queens, N.Y., for about 15 years before moving to Florida for an opportunity to start their own business. That was Charlie's Bakery, a Fort Lauderdale diner that specializes in the Jamaican beef patty, which Boothe said is "kind of like a flaky turnover with meat inside." The bakery recently celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Parents Charles and Pat found a way to send Kevin to private school beginning in sixth grade.

"My parents gave me the opportunity for what I call the best of both worlds: go from a private school to Cornell, to getting my degree at Cornell and then having the opportunity to be out here and be an athlete," he said.

Whether he prolongs the ride could depend on how patient the Raiders are, and how dearly they prize his versatility. Boothe started at right guard, right tackle and left tackle in college. Shell had lined him up exclusively at guard until Wednesday, when he got some repetitions at tackle.

"I think I'm able to pick up things fairly quickly in terms of mental ability," Boothe said. "But I don't know if I have a strength or weakness right now, because everything needs work."

EXTRA POINTS

TE Courtney Anderson (shoulder) and LB Kirk Morrison (hamstring) were back in action Wednesday. LB Robert Thomas (calf) and TE John Madsen (side) joined the wounded list.
 
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