For much of his first three years of high school, Keandre Booker hoped to become the next baseball or basketball star to come out of Moss Point.
While he dreamed early in his prep career of following his cousin, Moss Point legend Devin Booker, into the NBA or possibly taking the mound in the majors just like Houston Astros lefty Tony Sipp, it was apparent to the Tigers’ football staff and some family members that his time was better spent focusing on the gridiron.
“My uncle talked to me and he was telling me I could make it farther in football than basketball,” Keandre said Tuesday while facing Moss Point’s five football state title trophies in the school’s fieldhouse. “Six-foot-4 in the NBA, that’s small. But 6-4 in the NFL, that’s big.”
As a 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior defensive end, Booker now understands what Moss Point football coach Eugene Harmon and everyone else has been saying all along. He has become a dominant force on the Moss Point football squad during his senior season, tallying 51 tackles and six sacks.
Harmon has even moved him over to offense in short-yardage situations as a wildcat quarterback and he’s proven effective, running 40 times for 216 yards and five touchdowns.
Keandre has become one of the best defensive players on the Coast and he admits to not taking the sport seriously until the summer prior to his senior year.
“We got him back out (for football) in the summer time right before (his junior year),” said Harmon, a former Southern Miss linebacker. “We moved him from quarterback to defensive end and he just started buying in. We were telling him that this will be your ticket to go to college, be a defensive end. He just bought into it and (former Southern Miss and MPHS defensive lineman Willie Packer) has done an outstanding job with him, teaching him the smaller techniques. Midway through the season last year, it finally clicked.”
With limited game film to share with colleges, it took a trip to a summer “megacamp” in Memphis to grab the attention of approximately 70 coaches on hand.
Several coaches approached Keandre, but it was a staff member from Southeast Missouri State, a Division I program in the Ohio Valley Conference, who liked Keandre enough to offer him on the spot. Division II West Florida and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College have also offered, but a trip to the SEMO campus in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, convinced Keandre that the offer was too good to pass up. He verbally committed to play for the Redhawks before the start of the season and plans to sign his letter of intent in February.
While he’s currently committed to SEMO, Harmon has seen interest increase for Keandre from a handful of FBS programs. Louisiana-Lafayette and South Alabama have kept an eye on him for a while and Harmon’s alma mater, USM, has recently started inquiring.
Keandre may be a late arrival to football, but Harmon firmly believes that he has a bright future ahead of him in the sport.
“He has not even touched his potential yet,” Harmon said. “He’s still raw. He’s finally starting to grow into his body. He was 6-3, 205. He’s now up to 6-4, 220-225. He’s got room to put on 20-25 pounds and not lose speed. I think he’s going to get faster because he doesn’t focus on speed. He’s just a raw athlete right now.”
Keandre already claims a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds.
Moss Point, which finished 4-7 against one of the toughest schedules in the state, will travel to Mendenhall (9-1) Friday night for a first-round playoff game in the Class 4A South State playoffs.
Keandre is also more than just another football standout walking the halls of Moss Point High School. He’s actively involved in student life as the senior class president.
While most of his teammates are simply worried each week about preparing for Friday night, Keandre has a few more responsibilities to deal with.
“Homecoming week was the most stressful week,” he said. “From setting up the homecoming float, t-shirts, collecting senior dues and getting the senior trip approved, it’s a lot.”
Keandre ran for class president because he felt he “just needed a title, something to be remembered for in high school.”
Whether it’s at Southeast Missouri State or a much larger program, Keandre will get his chance to make a name for himself in a Booker family already loaded with talented athletes.