Jamarye Joiner sat at Culinary Dropout on Wednesday night, flanked by family and facing a crowd that included his friends and high school teammates. He carefully slid over a few empty bowls of queso dip, grabbed a packet of papers and spread them on the table.
The Cienega High School quarterback grabbed a pen and signed a keepsake national letter of intent.
Joiner is an Arizona Wildcat — something he could only dream of three years ago.
“The process has been a bumpy road starting off with my freshman year and just not knowing what’s going to happen after high school … everything I put into practice is now all starting to pay off,” Joiner said.
Joiner signed with Arizona rather than commit to Arizona State. Nebraska offered a scholarship, and Alabama showed interest. Joiner listened to his family members, but said Wednesday that he made the final decision by himself.
“They had a lot of influence on my decision, but 90 percent of the decision was mine,” Joiner said. “Some of my family wanted me to leave and some of them wanted me to stay home. At the end of the day, they’re going to support me and my decision.”
Joiner’s recruiting process was both simple and complicated. He verbally committed to the UA in September 2016, in part because then-coach Rich Rodriguez promised the Cienega star that he could play quarterback at the college level. Joiner’s insistence on playing the premium position turned some schools off; many saw the 6-foot-3-inch athlete as a cornerback or safety.
That Joiner committed to his hometown school was also a further deterrent to other teams, Bobcats coach Pat Nugent said. As a senior, Joiner threw for 2,196 yards and rushed for 1,399 yards along with 44 touchdowns.
“The quarterback position is what Jamarye dreamed to play so he accepted (a scholarship) early and I think that really hurt his recruiting — because when you commit to your local college, a lot of people don’t want to waste the time,” Nugent said. “If Jamarye didn’t commit to the U of A early, he would’ve been one of those kids with 20-plus offers. …
“If he started taking trips to Alabama and Nebraska and you start to see a different world? Then he might’ve gone somewhere else, but (UA) was close to home and he felt comfortable with the U of A and that’s how it all kind of came apart.”
Nugent said Joiner made the right decision. Kevin Sumlin replaced the fiired Rodriguez last month. Almost immediately, Arizona’s new coach focused on keeping players who had already committed. Sumlin met Nugent two days after his introductory press conference, and Joiner’s house was the first stop when Sumlin visited recruits.
“I asked (Sumlin) if he saw Jamarye on film and if he fits your style and he said ‘without question. … I’ve seen Jamarye and he’s a perfect fit.’ So that’s really what sold it to us,” Nugent said. “Sumlin came to us first and (Joiner) was the top man on his list. I asked him if Jamarye was somebody that was handed to him or that he wants. He said that’s somebody that he wants. … When he first got there, he was fired up to get Jamarye.”
The Cienega product will have some competition if he wants to be the heir apparent to Heisman Trophy hopeful Khalil Tate. The Wildcats surprised many on Wednesday when they landed Kevin Doyle, the Washington, D.C., Gatorade Player of the Year and a former Michigan commit.
Joiner said he isn’t afriaid of competition. When he transferred to Cienega from Salpointe Catholic in 2016, Joiner beat out senior Tyler Hammons for the starting job. Hammons was a pocket passer, like Doyle.
“That is a similar situation, but I feel like my talent and work ethic and everything that I’ve done over the last few years is just going to get better overall and fight for my job and earn everything,” Joiner said.