Grayslake North’s Titus Booker running like a broken record

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Titus Booker knew this wasn’t just another night when he heard the P.A. announcer rattle off his rushing numbers last Friday.

But the Grayslake North senior was too caught in the moment to pay much attention.

“When I’m running, I’m just trying to keep my offensive line jacked up,” Booker said. “I’m just trying to run for my teammates. I’m not stopping till I get the ‘W’.”

He got that – Grayslake North beat Prairie Ridge 47-27 – and more. A week after breaking the school rushing record with 322 yards against Hampshire, Booker did it again – running 26 times for 359 yards and five touchdowns against Prairie Ridge.

That earned Booker Sun-Times Athlete of the Week honors and cemented his status as one of the state’s premier running backs.

The Indiana recruit has 987 yards and 12 touchdowns on 110 carries, a testament both to his talent and his ability to avoid the injury bug.

“Last year, he was pretty banged up almost the whole year,” Grayslake North coach Steve Wood said. “This year his legs are healthy.”

But North’s opponents are feeling a little sick of facing Booker and the Knights (3-2) now.

“He has just got tremendous vision,” Wood said. “Like all good running backs, he sees three to four steps ahead of everyone else.”

On one play Friday, the coach said, “He made a couple quick, little moves that didn’t look like anything. Then he was gone.”

There’s no denying Booker’s speed. He was runner-up in the Class 3A 100 meters at last May’s state track finals and fifth in the 200.

“When I started running track, I just did it because of football,” Booker said. “It grew on me. I love running track now.”

His demeanor also has evolved.

“In the past, I’ve probably been a quiet guy,” Booker said. “I try to be more of a vocal leader this year.”

His role model in that regard is former North quarterback A.J. Fish, who now plays college lacrosse at Virginia.

“A.J. definitely taught me a lot,” Booker said. “We still talk – he’ll tell me how proud he is of me. It’s humbling.”

Wood, the only coach North has had since the program was launched in 2006, feels the same way about his star.

“He’s a great young man of character,” Wood said. “Extremely polite, very respectful. He’s the first one in [to practice], the last one out. …

“I would like to think he’s not the best kid I’ll ever coach, but there’s a chance he’ll be the best kid I’ll ever coach.”

Part of that is Booker’s talent – he’s the first Division I football recruit in school history – and part is his can-do attitude.

At various times this season, he has filled in at quarterback – throwing a touchdown pass in the process – and on special teams, where he returned a kickoff 51 yards.

And Booker also plays cornerback when needed, though Wood tries to give him a break from that when possible.

“I just do whatever the team needs me to do,” Booker said.

Lately, he’s been doing a lot.

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