Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story about an athlete.
Take the case of former Wingate University wide receiver Russell Booker. During his senior year in 1990, Booker caught 30 passes for 326 yards and two touchdowns in a Wingate’s version of the spread offense.
The football program transitioning from the NAIA to Division II and membership in the South Atlantic Conference in 1988. But Booker’s statistics and place in Wingate’s football tradition is not the spotlight.
Instead his unrelenting drive to building self-confidence, through hard work and humility makes Booker a Wingate legend. Booker was inducted in the SAC Hall of Fame.
I was blessed to work with some great people along the way. That’s why I am an advocate to help young people live positive experiences.
“I was very surprised,” he said. “I was a decent athlete, but I was not a Hall of Famer. But I was going to take it. When they shared with me the reason and what it was for, I was even more honored.”
Enshrined as a Distinguished Alumnus, Booker was the only nonsports inductee of the 2015 SAC Class.
By age 27, Booker had gotten his doctorate and was a school principal. He now is superintendent of Spartanburg, S.C., School District Seven. He said he got the job at age 27, the youngest ever in the state at the time.
“I was blessed to work with some great people along the way,” Booker said. “That’s why I am an advocate to help young people live positive experiences.”
Booker also serves on the board of trustees at Wingate University. In 2008, he was recognized as Wingate’s Outstanding Young Alumnus. He received the York County Citizen of the Year award in 2008.
Booker also has been married 20 years and is the father of two sons.
“We’re about teaching boys to be men and girls to be women,” he said. “I like to win, but that’s secondary.”
A member of the Byrnes (Spartanburg) Rebels 1986 high school football state championship team, Booker later coached football, basketball and track.
“It’s not all about me,” he said. “I was proud of the university and certainly I was proud of the work we’ve been trying to do with the kids.”
In 2009, Booker was recognized as South Carolina’s Superintendent of the Year. He received the 2013 Whitney M. Young Humanitarian Award from the Urban League of the Upstate. Booker also is a member of the NAACP and serves as the board chair of the United Way of the Piedmont. He is the president-elect of the Superintendent’s Division of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators.
Rob Jones is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Rob? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.