Irish Sports Daily, a website of All Things Fighting Irish, has its eye on 13-Year Man Thomas Booker '18. Coach Tim Holley shares his observations about what makes Thomas so attractive to Division I teams here:
Coach Says Thomas Booker Is "Dream" To Coach
Tim Holley understands exactly why Thomas Booker is such an attractive prospect to college programs.
"He's a terrific athlete, so that's a good place to start," the Gilman head coach said of the 2018 Maryland athlete.
"I think it also helps that he's 6-5 and 280. He played varsity basketball as a sophomore, although this year he didn't do basketball. He's a track athlete as well, so he's an all-around legitimate athlete, not just a big body. He's also a terrific student. He's in the top 10 percent of his class. And he's a wonderful kid and all of that too. Good kid with a good family."
Booker's father, also named Thomas, played college ball at Wisconsin.
"So he's got good genes in terms of playing," said Holley.
"I think there's a lot that's attractive about Thomas for Division-I schools. He's the kind of student-athlete all programs want."
We have the Baltimore native listed as an athlete here at Irish Sports Daily.
"I think he can play in a lot of different places," Holley said. "For us, he's been a tight end on offense and a defensive end on defense. He's got very nice hands. He's a big high school tight end of course, but he's got athletic ability."
At the next level, it seems most likely that he'll end up on defense.
"I think it depends on where he goes," his coach said. "I think he can be an asset offensively or defensively. I think most of the people we talk to are looking at him as a defensive player, but again, it depends on where he wants to go and where he fits in. His upside is pretty strong."
With offers from the nation's top programs like Notre Dame, Clemson, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and LSU among many others, finding that fit will be a task and it'll go well beyond football, according to his coach.
"I think right now, he's just looking at his options and weighing them," said Holley. "He's been on some college visits with his parents and trying to get a feel for places and philosophies, looking at different universities and what their points of emphasis are and how they fit with his academic goals.
"I think, systematically, the family is just trying to weigh its options to see the best possible fit and not ruling out any options. They're keeping an open mind to decide what might be the best place for Thomas to pursue all of his interests on the field and off."
Booker has demonstrated how important academics are to him during his time at Gilman and it's in line with the rest of his family's view.
"Our school is a strong school academically," said Holley. "That's our primary thing here. He's been here since pre-1st. We're K-12, so he's only known Gilman. It's the only school he's ever attended and his father went here.
"The family bought into the tradition of strong academics and strong athletics and excellence in being your best self and those kinds of things. He's lived that as a kid. He's been reared here at Gilman and bought into the philosophy of the school; mind, body and spirit. He lives it. It's been a good match for him and certainly, a good match for us."
Even with all of the attention that comes with being a national recruit, his family keeps him grounded.
"They make sure he knows he's been blessed with a lot of things," said Holley. "His parents have done well and he lives a good life. He has an older sister, who I think is also influential in keeping him grounded. She was a very good student. She went to Princeton University, graduated and is now at Duke Law School. The family has its eyes on all of the right prizes.
"They're not getting caught up in all of the accoutrements of big-time college athletics. They're really interested in finding a place where Thomas can thrive as a student-athlete with a lot of emphasis on student. He is a very strong student, his sister was a good student, his parents were good students. I think that's important."
And Holley believes Notre Dame is one school that will get a serious look.
"If you're asking me, I know Notre Dame has all of the attractions that a family like the Bookers would be interested in; very strong academics, great alumni networking, obviously, a wonderful football program," the coach said. "I would think, sure, Notre Dame would be right up there with all of the very strong academic schools that play a high brand of football. I think the tradition at Notre Dame is a very attractive thing."
His coach is confident Booker and his family will get to South Bend at some point.
"They have not shared that with me, so I don't when that's in the cards, but again, I know they are weighing as much as humanely possible," he said. "They obviously can't visit every place, but they're weighing all of their options and they want to see where people are and where the fit might be. Again, I don't know if they've planned a trip yet, but I know they are certainly planning trips. I wouldn't be surprised if Notre Dame was on this list."
Holley played with Booker's father at Gilman and first had a chance to coach Thomas back in eighth grade.
"I've known the family for a while and I'm thrilled to have an opportunity to work with him," he said. "Any high school coach is going to be thrilled to have an athlete of Thomas' ability to work with.
"He's kind of a coach's dream. He's got all of the tickets punched, which is a beautiful thing."