LAWRENCE — A voice belts out the chorus to an early-’90s R&B hit, and the sound echoes within Anderson Family Football Complex.
Whether it’s emanating from the weight room, the locker room or elsewhere, the noise and the vocalist behind those impromptu jam sessions can be quickly identified by Kansas teammates.
“That’s definitely Book,” junior wide receiver Steven Sims said, referring to senior wide receiver Jeremiah Booker. “Outside of football, he loves ’90s R&B. He a big J. Cole fan. That’s probably his favorite rapper. But other than that, I’d say he’s singing ’90s R&B all day long.”
That Booker is the person behind the one-man karaoke may surprise some KU fans, but upon review, the pairing of the self-described old soul and the throwback tracks appears a perfect match.
“A little Anthony Hamilton. I’ll go back to New Edition, some Beyoncé, Boyz II Men,” Booker said. “I like singing those songs, and they know when they hear an old school song on the phone, that’s most likely going to be me.”
The picture most KU (2-3, 0-2 Big 12) fans likely have of Booker is a stoic-yet-productive pass catcher short on flash yet high on effort.
The 6-foot-2 wideout has saved his best play for his final season. He’s hauled in a touchdown reception in each of the Jayhawks’ last three contests, all from different quarterbacks — perhaps the best representation of the stability and leadership the native of College Station, Texas, has provided to a program stuck in a near decade-long stretch of turbulence.
Teammates, however, know a different Booker from the low-key player fans see on Saturdays.
Booker admitted that much himself.
“When it’s time to work, I work, but I know I get on a lot of guys’ nerves,” Booker said with a laugh. “I may sing a lot and just be active and just hyper throughout the day. I just try to get all that out of me. But I love being at the facility, I love being around the guys. That really just brings everything out of me.
“I’d say I have a hyper side, I can get on some guys’ nerves sometimes, but I know when to hold back a little bit.”
A two-star receiver in the Class of 2015, Booker has overcome an injury-plagued career to exceed expectations and carve out his own role alongside Sims and the Jayhawks’ other wide receivers.
Booker’s presence carries heightened importance off the field, where the captain brings what fourth-year coach David Beaty called leadership of “monumental” importance.
“You don’t know how much of an impact a guy like that has on your team truly until he’s gone,” said Beaty, who also cited Booker’s work in the community with the Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. “I don’t know that the team appreciates that type of stuff, right? He drags our vision, he drags our team. He embodies what it means to be a selfless, hard-working, blue-collar guy.”
If one polled the Jayhawk players, Beaty said, Booker “would literally be 100 percent” identified as the hardest worker, the best example for young players.
“Or who — if your family’s life is on the line — who would you want, who would you trust to live with your family?” Beaty said. “I think it would almost be 100 percent that it would be Booker, because that’s the type of guy he is.”
Booker attributes his success of late to that work ethic and focus — the wide receiver carries a black book that every day is updated with an almost minute-by-minute schedule and list of tasks he needs to accomplish — and his parents, Herbert and Jackie Booker, retirees who now run a daycare but have made it a goal to see every one of Booker’s senior-year contests in person.
Beaty called Booker’s parents “just extraordinary people,” and, of course, the wideout isn’t going to disagree.
“My mom, she’s just a loving person. She loves everyone. She’s just outgoing, so I have that side from her,” Booker said. “My father, he’s kind of quiet, but he’s a humble man. When I was younger, all he had to do was give me that look and say a few words and, OK, I understood it. So I got that humbleness, understanding who I am from my dad.”
Faith, Booker said, has also been a pillar throughout his injury-plagued and often trying four-year college career. An active member of the team’s Bible study group, Booker said scripture has helped him navigate the Jayhawks’ on-field struggles.
“That just comes to resiliency and understanding (God) has a plan for us, as long as we just keep trusting and believing,” Booker said. “Even though we can’t see the end of the road, just continue to trust and believe in him. You have to trust the process and you will break through.”