The Bradley Bozeman opponents will soon line up against won’t look like the one they saw in 2011. Yes, it will still be menacing and more than likely it will still put on you posterior by play’s end.
It’ll just look different, leaner and more defined.
The Handley senior has shed 20 pounds from last season when he helped lead the Tigers to perfect 15-0 record and the school’s first state title. And no, he didn’t use some fly-by-night, Johnny-come-lately, mail-order diet to do it. He did it the old-fashioned way.
“I’ve just been working out really hard and watching what I eat,” he said. “Working out five days a week, just going at it.”
Bozeman made national headlines when he became the first player in the Class of 2013 to commit to the University of Alabama, making a verbal pledge to sign with the Crimson Tide at a camp following his sophomore season. As a junior, he compiled more than 60 pancake blocks (better than four a game), for a Tigers’ team that averaged more than 300 yards a contest and produced a pair of 1,000-yard rushers.
In his first season playing defense, he racked up 51 tackles and three sacks on his way to being named the Alabama Sports Writers Association Class 3A Lineman of the Year.
In the age of recruiting where minds change like the pop charts, Bozeman said his college plans are certain as far as he’s concerned. Clemson is the only school that even bothered to extend him an offer this summer and he’s not going take an official visit anywhere else, he said.
He and his father, Barry, shared a moment together when he received his official offer letter from the Tide on Aug. 1, the first day recruits could receive written offers.
“I’m just proud of him. Bradley’s always exceeded what I’ve expected of him,” said Barry, a member of the 1977 Handle squad which finished runner-up. “I’m as proud of him on the field as I am off the field.”
He and other big name recruits such as Autauga Academy tight end O.J. Howard have served as unofficial ambassadors for the Alabama’s recruiting class. They frequently can be seen patrolling the sidelines at Alabama games, working to entice uncommitted recruits to roll with the Tide.
And don’t expect a flip-flop a la highly-touted linebacker Rueben Foster, the former Troupe County (Ga.) standout who changed his commitment from the Tide to Auburn after transferring to Auburn High, from Bozeman.
“I knew that’s where I wanted to be,” he said of Alabama. “Everything lined up perfect for me right there. …Everything was right for me.”
Bozeman said he slimmed down to 305 pounds, utilizing a training regiment customized by Birmingham-based certified strength and conditioning specialist Jack Eyer. Eyer runs Metro Fitness, which specializes in training elite athletes for the next level of competition.
In the past, the Montevallo alumnus has trained Houston Texans linebacker Demeco Ryans and Buffalo Bills defensive tackle, Marcel Dareus a former Alabama standout and the No. 3 overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Working around Handley’s workout schedule, Eyer put together a plan built on classic power lifting exercises and dynamic runs such as uphill sprints to build endurance.
Just four and a half months into the program Bozeman said he benches 470 pounds, power cleans 300 and squats 550.
“All kids have fat,” Ayer said. “We didn’t purposely start off intending for him to lose weight. The object is for him to get back to 325 but for it to be all muscle.”
Bozeman said he can already feel the benefits of his new frame.
“I’m a lot lighter on my feet,” he said. “I feel like I can move a lot better. It’s really paid off, I think.”
That’s good for Handley and bad for opposing lineman. Bozeman said he thinks this year’s Tigers have the same focus they had going into last year’s championship run and with quarterback Trae Kyles and running backs such as Super 6 MVP Duran Zachery returning, they’ll be ready to repeat despite moving back up to Class 4A.
If he continues working the way he has all offseason, Bozeman will be ready when he arrives in Tuscaloosa next summer. It’s part of what motivates him every time he steps into the weight room.
“Making myself as best I can,” he said. “Being ready for Bama when I get up there and hopefully have a chance to start, just busting my butt.”