Local celebrity

Baltimore Ravens offensive lineman and Roanoke native Bradley Bozeman signs an autograph for a young fan at the grand opening of his father's HVAC office in Roanoke Saturday.

If you talk to Bradley Bozeman these days you get the sense that things just couldn’t have gone much better over the past year and a half.

In case you need a refresher, Bozeman ended his college career at Alabama by winning a national championship and then proposing to his then-girlfriend Nikki Hegstetter on the field as the confetti was still falling.

That offseason the Handley High School graduate earned consensus second-team All-American honors for his work as the Crimson Tide’s starting center and then was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft.

He earned a spot as a backup for the Ravens and appeared in 14 games, including one start during the 2018 season.

Then he got married in March, took a two-week honeymoon before eventually finding his way back to Roanoke this past weekend to help celebrate the grand opening of Air Control Heating and Cooling’s new building on Highway 431, where we caught up with him to ask a few questions before he reports to Ravens training camp on July 24.

He’s healthy, and he’s in a great frame of mind coming off of what he feels was a successful first season as a pro.

“I had a pretty good year last year. I really don’t think it could have gone any better,” he said. “I just want to build on that and continue that growth and that path. Not saying I’m going to start, not saying I’m not going to start. But I’m just going to bust my butt every day and see what happens at the end of the day.”

Bozeman has been exceeding expectations on the football field ever since coming out of Handley as a 3-star prospect. He believes that trend continued with the way his rookie year played out.

“I was sixth-round draft pick. I really wasn’t expected to even make the team. I was more of a developmental guy,” he said. “I ended up playing a lot, splitting a lot of reps with some really good veterans, which was great for me. And then I finished out the last game of the season and played pretty well, so it was just a good year from what I was supposed to do at the start.”

Depending on which depth chart you look at online, Bozeman is listed as the backup at three different offensive line positions – center, left guard and right guard – heading into the 2019 season.

“I’m an interior swing guy, so any interior position that’s kind of my realm,” he said.

He’s played alongside some high-profile stars in the NFL already, including Ravens quarterback and former Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. But Bozeman has another name in mind for who he sees as one of the most impressive player he’s shared the field with.

“Marshal Yanda, 100 percent,” Bozeman said, referring to his fellow offensive lineman. Yanda is the team’s starting left guard and a seven-time Pro-Bowl selection.

“He is just a monster. He’s unbelievable. He’s one of the best football players I’ve ever seen in my life.”

He has adjusted to his life in a new city as well, something he says has been made easier by a rabid Ravens fan base that compares favorably to the Crimson Tide crazies he experienced in college.

“It’s actually pretty similar. Baltimore, they are diehards,” he said. “You go out in public and they all know who you are, they pick you out of a crowd. They’re great fans. They’re loyal, they cheer hard, and it’s a loud stadium when it’s packed out.”

Bozeman is currently listed at 6-foot-5 and 317 pounds, but when it comes to acknowledging his small-town roots he still hasn’t gotten too big for his britches.

“Roanoke’s my home, and it will always have a special place in my heart,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable support I get from everybody in Randolph County and surrounding counties. I’m kind of taken back by how much support I actually have. It’s very appreciated, to say the least. I’m just very grateful for everyone in this community that supports me and cheers me on. It’s always good to come home.”

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