His path to the NFL didn't go as originally planned, but Dante Booker has a chance to play at the highest level and that is good enough for him.
Booker, a St. Vincent-St. Mary star and Ohio State linebacker, signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an undrafted free agent after the conclusion of the NFL Draft on Saturday.
Booker, who was named Mr. Football in Ohio after his senior season at St. V-M, said he feels blessed just to get his foot in the door with an NFL team after an up-and-down and injury-plagued career with the Buckeyes.
"It's something you've been working for since you were a kid and it's an absolute blessing," Booker said. "I've just been feeling extra thankful these last couple of days. It hasn't really hit me yet but I'm sure it will here soon."
When Booker and St. V-M teammate Parris Campbell came to OSU, Booker was the higher ranked recruit. But injuries derailed his OSU career at the beginning of his junior season while Campbell was developing into OSU's best receiver. Campbell went on to become a second-round pick of the Indianapolis Colts while Booker went undrafted.
Booker's OSU career started out as planned. He played 11 games as a freshman in 2014 and 13 games as a sophomore before becoming a starter as a junior. In his first start, he tore the medial collateral ligament in his knee and missed the rest of the season as a medical redshirt.
He returned the next season and tore the labrum in his right shoulder but played through it before a concussion ended his season. An MRI on his left shoulder showed a torn rotator cuff, labrum and bicep and he had surgery on both shoulders a month apart during the offseason before his final season as a Buckeye. During his last season he reinjured his knee and missed two games.
In his career at Ohio State, Booker played in 48 games and had 74 tackles, including nine tackles for a loss, and one interception. He graduated with a degree in sport industry.
Booker said the adversity he faced throughout his career at OSU made him stronger and he knows that signing with the Cardinals is just the beginning.
"Guys have to come in and earn that spot and that is something I'm looking forward to trying," Booker said. "Giving something my best shot and not having any regrets is something that I've just recently found out I'm capable of doing with my last year in Columbus.
"I'm confident and prepared to do just that and let God do the rest."
With the Cardinals, Booker will be reunited with linebackers coach Bill Davis, who was the linebackers coach at OSU.
Booker said Davis was instrumental in his decision to sign with the Cardinals.
"He has been in my corner the entire process and I'm sure he put in a good word for me with the Cardinals and the entire league," Booker said. "At the end of the draft, you have teams calling and I had a couple other opportunities but I decided the best opportunity for success in the league would be in Arizona."
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MBeavenABJ.