All-American OL Booker on 'Bama Commitment: 'To Hear it From Mama Feels Different'

Crimson Tide picks up commitment from IMG Academy star offensive line recruit via Sports Illustrated exclusive.
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Alabama is used to getting the best, or close to it, but the recruitment of Tyler Booker was far from the Crimson Tide's to lose until recent weeks. 

The Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy offensive lineman, who announced his commitment to Nick Saban's program via a Sports Illustrated video feature, admits the program wasn't in his top two before hitting the visit trail hard in the month of June. 

"They we're never the leader," he said. " There was actually a point where I was opposed to going to 'Bama because of their recruiting style, but that was them getting to know me and making sure I'm the type of guy they wanted. I understand, now, because you've got to be built different to play in that program. 

"Once I took my emotions out of it...that's what moved them to number one."

Booker visited Alabama the weekend of June 25, the fifth and final official visit he took to see each of his finalists. The first push for the program to vault Georgia, Florida and Oregon was in the middle of Bryant-Denny Stadium. 

"It was on the visit," he said. "Going on the field with the red lights, thinking about all the camps that I went to before and where I'm at now. But the thing that did it was my mom. She goes, 'Tyler, this is the pinnacle of football and that's where you're at now, at IMG. Why would you take a step down? It would make the most sense to stay on this track.'

"To hear that from my mom was like, 'oh my gosh!' If she sees it, then it has to be. To hear it from mama feels different." 

The newest pledge to Alabama's recruiting class of 2022, now up to 11 verbal commitments, admits there were plenty of connections between IMG and his future school beyond the expectation to win at each. 

Multi-year teammate J.C. Latham lied up at left tackle for the program before enrolling at UA in January and Evan Neal, a projected Round 1 NFL Draft pick, made the same move two years prior. 

Each has been in communication with Booker for some time. 

"I consider J.C. a brother," Booker said. "We've been through a lot of things at IMG, so to be able to have a resource like that at 'Bama, to tell me how it really is...that's hard to not listen to. Also, seeing his development. J.C. is a lot more mature now, he carries himself in a different way. Different in a good way. That shows me a lot. 

"Then talking to Evan, he's that big brother or cousin that you look up to. To be able to talk to him to give me the real on 'Bama was very beneficial to my decision. But the thing that Evan said to me that made me committed in my head was that he told me he went to 'Bama for the same reasons why he went to IMG -- to be the top dog amongst the top dogs."

Other elements of the rising-senior recruit's time in Tuscaloosa helped the program vault to the top before he called Saban to share news of his decision about a week ago. 

"Everybody was on point and excited, and they were all committed to the greatness," he said. "That's one thing I hadn't seen from all the 'Bama everybody was excited about helping me be great."

Now focused on his senior season at IMG, where the Ascenders will defend their 2020 national title under new head coach Pepper Johnson, Booker will move over the left tackle in place of Latham before enrolling at Alabama in January. 

"Expect everything you would expect from the top tackle in the country," he said. "A hard worker looking to start day one, giving it my all. I can't wait to be emerged into the community. 

"Roll Tide!"