He was driving his mother’s car, making a loop around town, visiting neighborhoods he hadn’t been to in years. A slow-moving winter storm was dumping rain on Shreveport, La., but the day looked just fine to USC quarterback John David Booty, home for a few days before he had to return to Los Angeles and yet another year on the bench as Matt Leinart’s backup.
Booty, a 20-year-old redshirt sophomore, stopped at a traffic light and looked out past the wipers raking his windshield. “I love being here,” he said on an early January afternoon, little more than 48 hours after the Trojans’ 55—19 win over Oklahoma in the 2005 Orange Bowl. “In L.A. you drive so much and you never know where you are. Here in Shreveport, nothing’s strange. Every place you go, you’ve been there before.”
The light changed, and he drove out to his old neighborhood. A few weeks before, Booty’s parents had moved to a gated community on Shreveport’s south end, but this was where they’d lived for the past 10 years. The house is a large brick Acadian on three acres, with a swimming pool, a barn and a coppice of fruit trees in back. Today it stood empty, the windows dark, the wet lawn littered with leaves. “My grandparents lived back there in a trailer,” Booty said, nodding toward the barn. “Me and Josh and Abram and Jack,” he continued, ticking off the names of his brothers. “We’d play football and baseball and Wiffle ball. We had a four-wheeler and a go-kart. It was good here. Our school was real close, over ...