Late-blooming Arizona WR Shawn Poindexter learns to love football

Shawn Poindexter catches one of his two touchdown passes against Washington State last week.James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Sumlin: 'He wants to be great'

Shawn Poindexter didn't like football. Didn't really get football.

He loved basketball. Growing up in the Phoenix area, he was a big fan of the Suns. Then there was volleyball. He was good enough to sign with Cal Baptist, but he never enrolled after he graduated from

Peoria Centennial High School. He just went to work.

"I was bussing tables," Poinedexter said, "And my step-dad, he's an electrician, so I was helping him wire some homes."

In an incredible journey, the part-time restaurant worker/electrician who was a no-star football recruit, is now a senior wide receiver for the Arizona Wildcats and on the radar of NFL scouts. He leads the team with 660 receiving yards on 36 catches. He has 10 touchdown catches -- one off the school record -- and has, amazingly, scored on his last six receptions.

This is a guy who didn't like football?

"I played my freshman year and my sophomore year of high school," he said. "But I didn't really play. I was one of those guys who just stood in the back because it really wasn't for me. My family loved it, but I just never played it, so I didn't have a feel for the game."

Poindexter didn't play football as a junior but returned to the team as a senior, with an assist from peer pressure.

"I didn't really like football because I didn't really play football. But all my best friends in high school, they loved football, played football their entire lives," Poindexter said. "So I started to commit myself to football and find the love for it."

That love simmered during his two-year gap after high school, pulled him back into sports. He enrolled at Glendale Community College, eager to take any Division I scholarship offer that came his way. Two days before the 2016 Signing Day, he committed to Marshall.

The next day, in Tucson, assistant coaches mentioned to then-head coach Rich Rodriguez about this tall receiver up the road. Arizona was in desperate need of size at wideout.

"I put on his film and said, 'Oh, what's the story?'" Rodriguez said in February 2016. "We got the background and made a few calls, talked to the kid. And in the space of three hours, we went from 'I didn't know who the hell he was' to 'he's about ready to sign with Arizona.'"

Poindexter remembered that moment very well. He received the offer from Arizona while driving in a car with his father.

"We stopped in the middle of the road," Poindexter said. "We were just speechless and so excited. It was like a dream come true.

"I verballed to Marshall to make sure I had a home, but I wasn't really comfortable there. Arizona -- I hadn't actually spoken to them in a couple of weeks -- and when they called to offer me the day before Signing Day, I was like, 'Yeah, that's the fit.'"

It's taken a while, but he was right about the fit.

Poindexter caught six passes in his first season at Arizona, 19 in his second ... and now the guy who used to not like football loves everything about it.

Now, he faces perhaps his final game as a Wildcat. Arizona needs to beat rival Arizona State on Saturday (1:30 p.m. MT, Arizona Stadium) to become bowl eligible.

First-year head coach Kevin Sumlin raves about how hard he works on the details during practice, about how he understands coverages, about how physical he is blocking on the perimeter, about how he has become more than just a volleyball player who can go up and come down with a 50-50 deep pass.

"He wants to be great," Sumlin said.

"I've had a bunch of people ask me about him who are from the next level who see his potential. I think his best football is ahead of him."

(I asked senior analyst Rob Rang about Poindexter. Looking at the Arizona-Utah game, Rang sees Poindexter as an undrafted free agent who has the potential to work his way into the last few rounds with postseason workouts).

Poindexter's presence has changed the way opponents defend the Arizona passing game. They often play him tight with safety help over the top, which frees up other receivers to make plays.

"He's made plays all year," Sumlin said. "If they allow him to play one-on-one, he's proven he can make plays."

(Note: The quotes from Poindexter were from a previously unused interview in 2016)