Cottonwood High's Cooper Bateman chooses Alabama, brings prestige to state's prep football programs
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
MURRAY — One of Utah's best high school quarterbacks will play football for SEC power Alabama.
With more than 50 offers and a four-star rating by scouting services, he becomes the state's highest-rated quarterback produced by Utah since the advent of both rivals and scout.com. His commitment rivals that of Highland's Haloti Ngata (Oregon), Cottonwood's John Martinez (USC), Timpview's Xavier Su'a-Filo (UCLA) or Matt Reynolds (BYU).
"I was least excited to visit Alabama," said Bateman Wednesday night. "In the end, it was the complete opposite."
He said he was struck by the rolling green hills, massive trees and beautiful campus when he and his mother arrived for an unofficial visit last month. But it was the way he felt that convinced him to play for the defending national champions in 2013.
"I had this feeling, aside from football," he said. "It was like home away from home."
Bateman's trip to Alabama included stops at LSU, Auburn and Florida. He said he never imagined he'd be committing to one of college football's powerhouses when he started the recruiting process two years ago.
"At the start of this whole process, I didn't know where I'd end up," he said. "Honestly, I didn't know if I could play in a conference like that."
But as he evolved as a player, and the offers came from all over the country, he began to see the possibilities of playing for a program with "that history, tradition and everything. I feel honored."
He's not worried about the pressure that he knows will accompany playing for such a high profile program.
"You can feel pressure any place you go," he said. "It's life or death down there. But I think that's a good thing."
He said fans that expect a lot are also extremely supportive and he's planning to use that energy and expectation to push himself. He also knows he may have to convince some people he can play at that level as he ventures into a situation no other Utah prep quarterback has gone.
"There might be people who think I can't play because I'm from Utah," he said. "But what I'd like to do is come out and prove them wrong."
He said meeting with head coach Nick Saban was an impressive experience.
"What an experience to play and learn from someone like that," said Bateman.
As a junior last fall, the honor student threw for 2,484 yards and 25 touchdowns (as well as rushing for three others).
"Bateman has one of the biggest arms in the country, and will wow you with his arm strength," said Greg Biggins, Scout's top quarterback evaluator. "He can really drive the ball down the field and shows the live arm you love to see but can also throw with touch as well. He throws a great deep ball with timing and accuracy and also does a nice job getting outside the pocket and throwing on the run. He's a shotgun guy but shows excellent feet and won't have a problem getting under center in college."
Bateman said he wanted to commit before the summer so he could focus on getting better and his senior season with the Colts.
And while the self-effacing young man is grateful for the opportunities his skills have earned him, he is willing to admit he's ready to finish the recruiting process.
"The process is fun, and it's been an enjoyable ride for me and my whole family," he said. "But it's a grind. It's a lot of phone calls, and it does get annoying."
He said it was a difficult decision, but one that his parents encouraged him to make for himself.