Tyler Booker is one of the top football prospects in the 2022 recruiting class. Watch the above video to see him announce his college decision exclusively with Sports Illustrated.
The college football and recruiting world anxiously awaited the calendar’s flip from May to June. It played out like a child’s anticipation ahead of an early birthday, a combination of wonder and adventure as prospective athletes could make traditional visits to college campuses for the first time in 15 months.
Many dove right in as the pandemic-induced restrictions were lifted, meeting with coaches, participating in camps and touring facilities. Others, like Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy’s Tyler Booker, had a more focused and fulfilling approach: 12 flights in 21 days.
“I’ve never been more tired in my life,” said Booker.
The 6' 5", 325-pound offensive lineman, who had trimmed his list of 30 scholarship offers down to five finalists, locked in official visits with each before the NCAA’s recruiting dead period kicked back in on June 28. Booker visited Florida the weekend of June 4 before flying back to IMG for the Under Armour All-America Game Future 50 camp the following weekend.
The pace then intensified in short order.
Oregon would host him right after the camp, and less than 24 hours after his return home to New Haven, Conn., Booker would be on a flight to see Georgia. The quick turnaround was duplicated with a trip to Ohio State immediately after. An official visit to Alabama on the weekend of June 25 rounded out America’s most ambitious visit plan.
“I made it!” he said as the dead period was back online.
The summer vision for the rising senior recruit was to make the visits, reconnect with his family and make a college commitment before relocating back down to IMG ahead of the 2021 football season and academic year.
After the Oregon trip, the SI All-American candidate considered pushing the decision into the fall in order to take in collegiate games early in the season. Ohio State and Oregon play in Week 2 and Alabama hosts Florida the following weekend.
Game day trips would have made sense, but as the family was able to convene back in New Haven, the original plan came back into play. Enough information was collected as each member of Booker’s immediate family made at least one of the visits. His parents went on each trip.
Following the seemingly unprecedented travel itinerary, it was Tashona Booker who helped her son come to the biggest decision of his young life.
“It was my mom,” Booker says. “She has a decent knowledge of college football, like she can hold a conversation … but to hear it from my mom was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ If she sees it, it has to be.
“Hearing it from Mama feels different.”
The original plan of committing in the month of July was by design, in order for Booker to get back to IMG—where he reports on Monday—to help the Ascenders defend their high school national championship. The team finished 8–0 in 2020.
The 2021 team will feature plenty of changes, common at the nationally known boarding school, including a new head coach in former NFL great Pepper Johnson and a bevy of new players. For the team’s tone-setter and third-year leader, there will be a new position to perfect ahead of the opener on Aug. 20.
Booker will move from right tackle to left tackle this fall, replacing former SI99 prospect JC Latham, now playing college football at Alabama.
Transition is nothing new for one of America’s top offensive line prospects, who plans to enroll at his college destination in December.
Booker began his high school career commuting about 90 minutes each way from New Haven to Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. Always in search of competition, he wound up starting on varsity as a freshman in 2018.
“I basically grew up with my mom on FaceTime,” he says. “Every time I would come back, I would be an inch taller and 10 pounds heavier.”
Around the same time, Rutgers gave him his first scholarship offer, and his recruitment—and national profile—took off. The buzz was coming on the other side of the football, though, as Booker played on the defensive interior at tackle. He remained a “defensive guy” through the move to IMG before fully committing to the offensive line in 2020.
His recruitment intensified after the move, especially with the elevated spotlight.
“I always say I’m the best lineman in the country,” he says. “I’m the best player in the country. That’s just mental conditioning, mental training. My mental game sets me apart from everybody else.”
More Recruiting Coverage: