There have been some twists and turns in Bradley Bozeman’s path to college football glory.
From commitment to grayshirt to redshirt, from backup freshman to emergency starter to starter in waiting.
But now it appears that Bozeman’s time has come.
Through spring practice and now as fall workouts have begun and the season approaches it has become apparent that Bozeman, a former star at Handley, is in line to be the starting right guard for the Alabama Crimson Tide.
And while the excitement level is up, it’s still business as usual in preparation for the season.
“They do a lot of film study and a lot of weight room stuff and a lot of walk-throughs and things like that,” said Bradley’s father Barry Bozeman. “It’s really no different with him being a starter or a backup. They still go through the same process every day.”
It seems that at Alabama, like many other places in life, it’s not so much what you do as how well you do it.
“He’s always been that kind of guy that really gets involved and buys into whatever they’re selling,” Barry Bozeman said. “Those kind of guys usually catch on a little quicker and move up a little quicker.”
Bradley has made a name for himself with his work ethic on the field, in the film room and in the weight room.
After two years of preparation and a handful of surprises along the way, he should be ready for whatever the starting job has in store.
In 2011, Bozeman’s junior year at Handley, everything was coming up roses.
His team went undefeated and won the state championship. He became a hot commodity as an offensive line prospect and eventually committed to Alabama before the start of his senior year.
But 2012 was not as kind to Bradley. He wrecked his knee in a game against Dallas County early in the season. The injury required surgery and abruptly ended his high school career.
It also put him in a state of flux with his enrollment at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide coaches didn’t want an injured player to count against their scholarship numbers for the 2013 class, but they did not want to lose Bozeman as a recruit either.
The plan was to have Bradley fully rehab his knee and delay his enrollment until after the 2013 season, so he would count as a member of the 2014 recruiting class. It’s a common tactic and is commonly referred to as a “grayshirt.”
He had accepted that plan and dutifully continued rebuilding the strength in his surgically repaired knee while working a job at a country club in Birmingham.
But in July of 2013, just prior to the start of practice for that season, the Tide’s coaches saw enough in Bozeman’s progress and his potential to pull the grayshirt plan and have him enroll for the upcoming season.
It was a pleasant surprise.
The chances of playing time for that season were slim to none, so Bozeman gladly accepted a redshirt while he acclimated himself to the program and to college life in general.
The following season held more surprises for Bozeman. The Tide wasted no time throwing the redshirt freshman into the fire for his first collegiate game action.
It was mop-up time in the fourth quarter of a 41-0 win over Florida Atlantic, but Bozeman played several series at center in place of starter Ryan Kelly, including one series with the other first-team linemen.
That proved to be a wise investment of time by the Alabama coaching staff as Kelly would go down with an injury later in the season against Ole Miss.
Bozeman stepped in for his first college start against Arkansas the following week, and then followed that up with a solid starting performance against Texas A&M.
He played in a total of nine of the Tide’s 14 games last season.
The Tide enter 2015 needing to replace three starters on the offensive line, but Kelly is not one of them.
Rather than have Bozeman wait behind Kelly Alabama shifted Bozeman to guard. He worked on both the left and right side during spring practice but has settled in on the right side and appears to be penciled in as the starter at that position.
But according to his father that’s not the way he prefers it.
“He loves center,” Barry Bozeman said. “He told me. He said, ‘Dad I’m in charge. I know what to do and I tell everybody what to do or make the calls. I like that.’ He likes the guard position as well, but he really liked that center position.”
Because of his redshirt Bradley has three years of eligibility remaining, so there may be more time for him at center in the future.
And because of those three years left at Alabama, the Bozemans haven’t spent too much time worrying about the slightly more distant future and the possibility of playing in the NFL.
“That’s not been discussed other than just he and I discussing the possibility maybe,” Barry said. “Just dreaming. Kind of window shopping.”
Bradley is majoring in kinesiology and hopes to have a career in the strength training field.
“I think he wants to be a strength coach,” Barry said. “His big deal is the weight room. He loves the weight room.”
But no matter what he ends up doing after college, Barry has confidence that his son is on the path to success.
“He’ll be successful in whatever he chooses to do,” Barry said. “He’s that kind of guy. He was being taught every day to be that kind of guy when he grew up, and now they’re just kind of finishing him off in that direction. Bradley’s going to be fine, whatever happens.”