Arguably the most ambitious official visit slate of any prospect in the 2022 college football recruiting class was wrapped up with a 'Roll Tide.'
Tyler Booker, the Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy star offensive line recruit, took his fifth and final official visit to Alabama just as the open recruiting period came to a close over the weekend. It followed official visits to fellow finalists Florida, Oregon, Ohio State and Georgia.
Booker had been to Tuscaloosa multiple times prior, beginning as a youth football camper attempting to become the best defensive line talent he could be. A position switch and move down the coast, not to mention filling out a 6'5", 325-pound frame, would lead him back to a program with noted success in recruiting America's top prospect-producing program.
"It was just pretty much a dream come true," Booker told Sports Illustrated. "Going to the Nick Saban camp when I was younger and now being there, seeing the look on the kids' faces while on the visit here, really drove me to be in this position. It just shows that hard work pays off.
"You go there to be great. I feel like that with everybody in every facet of the program, you're driven to be great. On the field, off the field, in the weight room, in the training room if you get hurt. The school is set up to be great, everybody has bought into that mindset and culture."
Several IMG Academy standouts have made the move from Bradenton to Tuscaloosa, with SI99 top 10 prospect and fellow offensive lineman J.C. Latham doing as much in January. Crimson Tide veteran Evan Neal, a projected first round selection early in the 2022 mock season, is another Booker admits he looks up to from the position and pipeline.
As the rising-senior recruit reflects on each of the visits, with family en tow at each, he is eager to weigh every element of each program. A commitment could come as early as the month of July, but there is no longer a defined decision window in place, he says.
But there is certainly a clarity developing. A purpose had long been internally penned, prominent when making the biggest decision of a young life back with the family in his native New Haven, Connecticut.
“I'm really relieved and proud because not a lot of people from where I'm from get these opportunities to be presented on a national stage and I am,” Booker said. “I'm really blessed to be able to have gone to those schools and most of all, just enjoy these schools to the maximum. It also shows me that I have to work harder because all the visits, photo shoots, everything, doesn't mean anything if I go to a school and don't have a positive effect on the school and myself.”
A pair of criteria will prove critical when the final call is to be made.
“Where I can be the most successful?” he said. “And honestly, where I'm the most comfortable. I think about what a coach told me, to make a decision on a neutral site. So now that I'm back home, I actually have time to go through the visits, think about the campuses, things I didn't like and what I would have liked to see. When it comes down to it, that's what matters the most. All the schools in my top five are set to win a national championship while I would be there. All have great facilities and will be able to develop me into a first round talent.
“My mindset, anything that is going to make one school pull away from the other, is how at home I felt at the school and how I'll develop as a person. I'm going to develop as a first round talent wherever I go.”
Booker confirmed to SIAA that each of the five programs he saw in person in June remain under consideration.