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Josh Booty has been through contract negotiations, ridden the pine and earned a championship ring. And he hasn't even been through the NFL Draft yet.

Until the 2000 college football season, Booty had been better known as an all-everything high school athlete who spurned Louisiana State to pursue a Major League Baseball career. He'd spent five years in the Florida Marlins' system, picking up a World Series ring in 1997 but never making it as an everyday third baseman in the bigs. He'd left baseball in 1998 to give LSU and college football a try.

Booty's first season at LSU in 1999 was nothing spectacular as he made the transition from baseball to football. He threw for 1,830 yards, but had 19 interceptions vs. only seven touchdowns. But Booty showed considerable improvement in 2000. He was named first-team All-SEC for passing for 2,121 yards and 17 touchdowns. He led the Tigers to a second-place finish in the Western Division of the SEC, and an appearance in the Peach Bowl.

Booty passed for more than 200 yards six times in 2000. He leaves LSU ranked sixth in school history in passing yards with 3,951 yards and seventh in school history with 24 touchdown passes, despite playing in only 21 games.

The fact he was a starter for less than two whole seasons could hurt. But one thing scouts have loved about Booty is his arm strength. He credits his time in baseball with helping develop that strength.

"I think it helps because you throw every day in the minor leagues," Booty said. "When you throw that much, your arm stays strong. You do a lot of the same things, even though the grip on the ball is different. Playing third every day certainly helped my arm strength over the years."

The time Booty spent working on his baseball career means that, at 25, he's considerably older than most other players in the draft (with the exception of Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, 28, who also played minor league baseball before attending college). But he doesn't think that will hurt him.

"I'm not to the age where I'm over the hill," he said. "I'm still a young guy. I think I've got 10 years left, so I've got a lot left in me. A lot of quarterbacks don't hit their prime years until they are 30 or 32. Guys like Rich Gannon, they're great quarterbacks. They've played in the league awhile, made some adjustments, and now they're doing great."

If anything, the fact that he's been through the rigors of trying to make a professional team could help him in a number of ways. First, he understands the business aspect.

"I've been in professional sports and dealt with owners and coaches and general managers," he said. "I know how it works and know the politics and the business. It helps. Maybe it makes me more mature and a better player. I know how everything works."

And, having struggled with the Marlins, Booty knows just how challenging it will be to take his game to the next level.

"I think getting in and learning everything will be the biggest challenge," he said. "It's a challenge to get into a new system and a new playbook. That's the fun part of it. That's why I declared early. I'm 25, so I want to get in early and get to work."

Even with all the ups and downs of his athletic career to this point, Booty is happy with the way things have turned out.

"I played four years of baseball, I was able to make it the major leagues and I have a World Series ring," Booty said. "I did that thing. My family is a football family, my dad's a coach and my brother played at LSU. I think it's where my heart is, and I'm really enjoying myself."

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