The drive from Las Vegas to Tucson takes about seven hours if you’re driving the speed limit, and up to 10 hours with traffic.
It gave Drew Doxtator a lot of time to think. And man, does he have a lot to think on.
His rise to becoming a top recruit; committing to USC, twice; blowing out his knee three times; losing the USC scholarship offer; and, soon after, missing out on all of his major-college offers.
The journey is what led him to that drive with his father in April, from Sin City to the Old Pueblo.
He arrived at Pima College West Campus, met with Aztecs coach Jim Monaco, went out to Pima’s practice, went through a few drills with the receivers, went back to Monaco’s office for a few minutes, then hopped back in the car and drove seven hours back to Vegas. He did have school in the morning, after all.
“He throws the way Roger Clemens pitched,” said Monaco, who was hired as Pima’s coach in December. “He just grunts when he gets rid of the ball he throws it so hard. So we told him, ‘We love ya, we’ll give you a shot.’ ”
Doxtator is competing to take the first snap under center when Pima opens its season Aug. 23 at Phoenix College.
Doxtator, a 6-foot-3-inch, 217-pound pocket passer, said he’s happy to be an Aztec. If all had gone according to plan, though, he’d be a Trojan, his dream school ever since falling in love with the program while growing up in Markesan, Wisconsin.
It’s why it was so easy for him to commit verbally to USC early during his senior season, when Lane Kiffin was still coach.
The whole process leading up to that scholarship offer, though — and what happened to Doxtator afterward — is Exhibit A in how volatile recruiting can be.
To start, Doxtator didn’t know for a full year that USC even wanted him.
Doxtator blew up as a prospect after he threw for 2,687 yards and 37 touchdowns with just six interceptions. USC became a real possibility — he just didn’t know it.
He was “getting interest from almost every school in the nation,” Doxtator said.
Doxtator received 500 letters from the likes of Alabama and Oregon, and UCLA was recruiting him heavily, too.
“My coach, he didn’t help me with recruiting,” Doxtator said.
After his junior year, cut short when he blew out his right knee for the second time — he still passed for 1,998 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games — Doxtator said USC finally sent a letter directly to his home.
He opened it, called USC coaches right away, was sent tickets for a game, showed up in Pasadena, California, and the coaches told him, “ ‘We’ve been trying to contact you for over a year now,’ ” Doxtator said. “For them to say ‘We’ve been waiting for you, what’s been going on?’ was frustrating.”
So, he committed. Then Kiffin was fired. His interim replacement, Ed Orgeron, re-offered Doxtator in the locker room after USC upset Stanford late in the season. Once Steve Sarkisian came in — looking for a dual- threat quarterback, coaches told Doxtator — the offer was dropped, just two days before national signing day.
His other option had dried up, too.
“When I hit up my other offers, they already had two, three guys committed,” Doxtator said.
To top it off, Doxtator still hadn’t recovered from a knee injury he suffered his sophomore year, which he then re-injured during both his junior and senior years.
Despite all of that, Doxtator threw for a combined 4,212 yards and 38 touchdowns in 15 games in two years and participated in the ESPN-run Elite 11 quarterback camp after his junior season. He almost quit playing football, but after spending some time training, working his knee back into shape, he opened up his search to look at some junior colleges, a path recommended to him in talks with coaches at Ole Miss, San Diego State and San Jose State. The Rebels offered him a chance to walk on, but he declined.
And that’s when Pima came calling.
Doxtator’s best-case scenario: He plays — and starts, ideally — for Pima for six months, or one season, before moving on to greener pastures.
“When he was down here, that’s when he said, ‘You know what Coach? I’m coming down here to start,’ ” Monaco said. “We’d have been foolish not to take him, and we’re thrilled we have him.”