NEW HAVEN, Conn. — As an offensive lineman on the Crimson Tide football team at the University of Alabama, Tyler Booker is getting used to the bright lights of Tuscaloosa.
"It's surreal," explained Booker. "100,000 people screaming for you wanting you to succeed. To have that many people behind you, there's no other feeling."
But the doors to Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa were far away for the New Haven native, who - in each step of his journey - found himself inching closer to the most high-profile perennial powerhouse in college football. Booker left Connecticut to play high school football in New Jersey, before transferring to IMG Academy in Florida for the beginning of his sophomore year.
"It was very challenging, but at the end of the day, I knew what I wanted to do with the game of football. I knew how far I wanted to go. If it took me moving to New Jersey, if it took me moving to Florida, that's what I was willing to do," said Booker.
Booker shined in the sunshine state, developing into a five-star offensive tackle and one of the most sought-after recruits in the Southeast Region. Now Booker enters his sophomore campaign having been selected to the All-SEC Freshman Team.
"I had a great freshman year. I played a good amount. I got to learn," said Booker.
Now Booker takes what he's learned back to Connecticut, and instead of keeping that knowledge to himself, Booker is imparting wisdom on the next generation of athletes, by hosting a youth football camp back where his football journey began.
"People have always told me don't forget about who brought us to the dance. The people who brought me to the dance are the people of Connecticut. The people who always encouraged me, the people who always motivated me, the people who brought me to workouts," said Booker.
Booker could have picked many spots to host this camp. His high school football career began in New Jersey and continued into Florida. Despite Booker now playing in Alabama, it was important to him to do this camp where he first picked up a football at age seven.
"I've always got a spot in my heart for New Haven. Because I've been gone so long, I just wanted to focus on giving back. I love being back home," said Booker.
The football camp is on Saturday, May 20 at Hopkins School in New Haven. The camp is open to students grades five through eight, and runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Jonah Karp is the sports director at FOX61 News. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
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