Tyler Booker is one of the best soccer prospects in the recruiting class of 2022. Watch the video above to see him announce his college decision exclusively with Illustrated Sports.
College football and the recruiting world were eagerly awaiting the calendar change from May to June. It developed as a child’s anticipation of an early birthday, a combination of wonder and adventure, as would-be athletes were able to make traditional visits to college campuses for the first time in 15 months.
Many jumped in when pandemic-induced restrictions were lifted, meeting with coaches, participating in camps and touring facilities. Others, like Tyler Booker of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, had a more focused and satisfying approach: 12 flights in 21 days.
“I’ve never been more tired in my life,” Booker said.
The 6’5 “, 325-pound offensive lineman, who had cut his list of 30 scholarship offers to five finalists, locked himself up on official visits with each before the NCAA draft deadline began June 28. Booker visited Florida the weekend of June 4 before flying back to IMG for Under Armor All-America Game Future 50 camp the following weekend.
Then the rhythm intensified in no time.
Oregon would greet him immediately after camp, and less than 24 hours after he returned home to New Haven, Connecticut, Booker would catch a flight to see Georgia. Quick change doubled with a trip to Ohio state immediately afterward. An official visit to Alabama on the weekend of June 25 completed America’s most ambitious visit plan.
“I did it!” He said the dead period came 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 moving back to IMG before the 2021 football season and academic year.
After the trip to Oregon, the IS All-American candidate considered carrying the decision until the fall so that he could participate in college games earlier 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 when the family was reunited in New Haven, the original plan worked again. Enough information was gathered since each member of Booker’s immediate family made at least one of the visits. His parents went on every trip.
Following the seemingly unprecedented travel itinerary, it was Tashona Booker who helped her son make the most important decision of his young life.
“It was my mom,” Booker says. “He has a decent knowledge of college football, like he could carry on a conversation … but hearing it from my mother was like, ‘Oh my God!’ If you see it, it has to be.
“Hearing it from mom feels different.”
The original plan to commit in July was by design, for Booker to return to IMG, where he reports Monday, to help the Ascenders defend their national high school championship. The team finished 8-0 in 2020.
The 2021 team will feature many changes, common to the nationally known boarding school, including a new head coach at the former NFL great Pepper Johnson and a bevy of new players. For the third-year leader who sets the tone for the team, there will be a new position to perfect before the first game on August 20.
Booker will move from right tackle to left tackle this fall, replacing former SI99 prospect JC Latham, who now plays college football in Alabama.
The 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 by traveling about 90 minutes each way from New Haven to Bergen Catholic High School in New Jersey. Always looking for competition, he ended up starting on the varsity team as a freshman in 2018.
“Basically, I grew up with my mother on FaceTime,” he says. “Every time he came back, he was an inch taller and weighed 10 pounds more.”
Around the same time, Rutgers gave him his first scholarship offer and his recruiting and national profile took off. However, the buzz was coming from the other side of football, as Booker was playing on the defensive inside at the tackle. He remained a “defensive guy” during the move to IMG before fully committing to the offensive line in 2020.
Their recruitment intensified after the move, especially with the focus of attention heightened.
“I always say that I am the best lineman in the country,” he says. “I am the best player in the country. That’s just mental conditioning, mental training. My mental game sets me apart from others. “
More recruiting coverage:
• SI All-American Watch List: 11-25 Wide Receivers
• The wanted WR Horton talks about an imminent decision
• Inside the Top Five of Elite DL Walter Nolen
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.