No stranger to struggle: Cottonwood's Cooper Bateman chose challenging path for his college football career

Published: Sunday, April 20 2014 8:05 p.m. MDT

Alabama quarterback Cooper Bateman delivers a pass during 2014 spring drills. Bateman played high school football at Cottonwood High.

Amelia J. Brackin, Courtesy University of Alabama Athletics

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Cooper Bateman stood on the sideline of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a group of linemen sweaty and smiling in the warm sun and cool wind of a Tuscaloosa spring day.

He’d just put on a show for more than 73,000 fans who love Alabama football so much they lapped up every second of a watered-down version in the annual A-Day game. At the center of Saturday’s ceremonial end to the Crimson Tide’s spring camp was the 18-year-old from Murray, Utah.

The Cottonwood alum wasn’t the star, and well, Alabama coach Nick Saban made it clear this game wasn’t designed to allow even the best athletes to shine.

“In games like today, we really do limit what we do on offense,” he said. “We really don’t try to feature players. And I think that may be a little bit of a disadvantage to some of our players.”

Saban doesn’t allow freshmen to talk to the media, and he didn’t mention Bateman, even when asked about his quarterbacks, despite the fact that the redshirt freshman led the white team to a 17-10 victory with better stats than his senior teammate, Blake Sims. The conventional wisdom among fans and media members is that Sims will be competing with Florida State transfer Jacob Coker for the starting job this fall.

Bateman didn’t appear to get that message.

While Sims' longest drive was five plays, Bateman led drives of 14, 10 and eight plays. He finished 11 of 24 with 156 yards and a touchdown. Sims was 13 of 30 for 178 yards and one touchdown, but he also had two interceptions.

“I just thought he played with such poise,” said Scott Cate, Bateman's high school offensive coordinator at Cottonwood High and the man who Bateman still looks to for advice and assistance. “I really thought he enjoyed being there; he wasn’t afraid of the moment.”

CHOOSING THE CHALLENGE

As one of the top prep quarterbacks in the country in the 2013 class, he could have chosen to play just about anywhere — including most Utah schools.

He could have stayed closer to home.

He could have found a school that would have started the four-star prospect immediately.

He could have played baseball the spring of his senior year, enjoyed prom and graduated with his friends.

Instead, he graduated in December and enrolled in Alabama so he could participate in spring camp and ease into college classes.

“He was so young when he went,” said his mom, Lisa Bateman. “He was so far from home, and it was hard. He had to hit the ground running and he hasn’t looked back.”

Bateman never wanted an easy road.

He wanted to challenge himself in ways that most people don’t have the courage to do.

When he committed to Alabama, he told the Deseret News that he didn’t mind being a small fish in a big pond. He thought he could swim with those who came from more storied programs or had better pedigrees.

“Cooper wanted to see if he could play on a big stage,” Cate said. “He knew there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. But he wanted to see if he could.”

Bateman’s choice seemed particularly ambitious — especially showing up for spring drills at 6 foot 3 weighing 175 pounds.

“He struggled in spring ball last year,” his father Brett Bateman said. “He’s had to learn how to fight his way through things.”

A ROUGH RIDE

Challenge is something Bateman has never tried to avoid. He didn't have that luxury.

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