By Scott Sudikoff
For Harvard senior running back Charlie Booker, size has never been a deterrent for him in his football career. The 5-foot-9, 200-pound economics major from Houston, Texas earned himself a spot on the 2017 All-Ivy League first team after rushing for 733 yards with six touchdowns. Football wasn't the first sport that Booker ventured into though.
"I remember as a younger kid my parents tried to keep me involved in a lot of sports," explained Booker. "The first sports I played were soccer and baseball, and I honestly had no idea what was going on in either sport."
Charlie wasn't intrigued by either sport, but it wouldn't be long before he found a sport that did truly interest him.
"One night when I was five or six years old, my dad was watching football," said Booker. "I was intrigued, I was asking him a bunch of questions. I said, 'I want to play that!'"
At first though, it wasn't exactly what Charlie thought it was going to be when he first went out to play football.
"I remember going out to the practices and it was flag football," Booker explained. "Wait, where are the pads?!"
Booker had to play two years of flag football before it was time to don the pads and play tackle football at the age of eight.
What about football really drew Booker in?
"I definitely say the physicality, everybody was all into it," Booker described. "My main thing I always wanted to do was stiff arm somebody."
Although he grew up in the Houston area, Booker was a New Orleans Saints due to his family being originally from the New Orleans area. There was one Saints player that stood out to him.
"The huge star running back for the Saints was Deuce McAllister," said Booker. "He played really physical, and I was intrigued by his running style."
As mentioned earlier, Booker has been on the smaller size when compared to other players on the field growing up. Speed was Booker's best weapon.
"I was a track runner, so I was able to get through things with my speed," said Booker. "Once I got to high school I put on a lot more weight because I didn't want to just play with my age group."
Playing high school football in Texas always comes with the comparisons to what see in movies and televisions, and for Charlie, he believes his experience somewhat mirrors what we've all seen portrayed.
"When we went on our state run [at Cypress Ranch High School] the local stores were wishing us good luck and closing down for games," explained Booker. "It was nice to have the community all behind you and give us that little local superstar moment once in a while."
While in high school, Booker was a first team All-District player on two occasions as a running back and his team reached the 2014 state championship finals. Even before the accolades, he had his eyes set on playing in college.
"It was always the goal for me," said Booker. "I jumped on that [recruiting process] my sophomore year and my junior year was my coming out party."
Booker would earn offers from Army, Navy and Air Force, but had a goal to try and receive an offer from TCU. Harvard was not on the radar at the time.
"A TCU coach came down to my school and told me they'd want me as a defensive back there," said Booker. "I didn't care about changing positions, so I went to a camp and it couldn't have gone any better!"
Unfortunately for Booker, a coaching change derailed the progress towards TCU, as the defensive backs coach moved onto Kansas. That bad break led to a positive development coming around the corner.
"Surprisingly Harvard ended up calling like a week later," Booker explained. "It was such a blessing!"
This surprise call from Harvard came virtually out of nowhere since Charlie had no prior contact with the Crimson.
"I didn't know how good they were at football and the tradition behind Harvard sports," said Booker. "It became a clear-cut decision after doing the research."
About a week after receiving an offer from Harvard, Booker accepted it. He would have a tough start to his on-field Harvard career though.
"My first day of testing, I pulled my hamstring on the 40-yard dash," Booker described. "The hamstring kept me out basically my whole freshman year. It was a growth period for me that was tough but much needed."
Booker was able to see the field as a sophomore, but things really came together last year as a junior resulting in the selection to the All-Ivy League first team.
"Charlie is one of the toughest and most physical runners and blockers we've had during my tenure," said Tim Murphy, The Thomas Stephenson Family Head Coach for Harvard Football. "He is such a great kid that everyone around him plays a little better."
As any good running back should, Booker puts a lot of praise on the men in front of him, the offensive linemen.
"Those guys on the line in the trenches, that's where the whole game starts," explained Booker. "I give all my accolades to them, if I'm doing good it's because of them."
During Booker's time on campus, Harvard football and the Ivy League in general has continued to grow, and he has really enjoyed the time spent in Cambridge.
"It has lived up to the hype," said Booker. "Especially where the Ivy League is going, football is more notable in the Ivy League and we are getting the best of both worlds with the best education."
If you're thinking of making the choice to come to Harvard to play football, Booker has some words of advice for you.
"It's not going to be easy and it will really make you an overall better person," Booker describes. "Whatever you want to do this is the place that will help you grow to as high as a level as you want to."
Booker and the Crimson are hoping to reach the level of Ivy League champions once again in 2018.