Daxx Garman was a sophomore at Carl Albert High School near Oklahoma City when he traveled north to Wichita, Kansas, with his quarterback coach to throw with a couple of other budding blue-chippers.
One of those Wichita quarterbacks was future Oklahoma Sooner Blake Bell, who was surprised to discover a player with such a big arm went to a school that rarely passed the ball.
“Dude, you need to go somewhere that throws the football,” Bell remarked to Garman. “You have a cannon.”
Garman is finally the starting quarterback for an offense that throws the football. Tonight, in Oklahoma State’s Big 12 opener against Texas Tech, he will make his second college start for the Cowboys. In fact, it will be his second start anywhere in five years.
To get to this point, Garman has traveled seemingly anywhere and everywhere. And persevered through every stop along the way.
“Daxx is a grinder,” said Joe Dickinson, formerly Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator in 1998, who has instructed Garman through the DeBartolo Football Academy. “He never stopped believing his shot would come.”
It would have been easy to give up on that belief.
Garman took to heart Bell’s suggestion to play for a high school that passed the ball and might better showcase his throwing skills for college recruiters. He transferred before his junior year from Carl Albert to Jones, a small rural suburb northeast of Oklahoma City. There, he instantly became a star. In eight games, he threw for more than 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns while putting the Longhorns on the cusp of a district title. He also began to draw the attention of college coaches.
“He’s an impressive thrower of the football. That’s what jumped out to me most,” said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who recruited Garman while an assistant at Houston. “He can really spin it … a heck of a talent.”
Garman’s sudden trend upward at Jones, however, would reverse into an unexpected and steady fall.
With one game remaining in the regular season, the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association received an anonymous tip that there might be a problem with Garman’s eligibility. An investigation revealed that while his family had moved into the Jones school district, it also needed to file for a hardship waiver. The Garmans didn’t know that. Though it was a paperwork technicality, Garman was deemed ineligible. As a result, Jones had to forfeit six games, eliminating the team from advancing into the playoffs.
Oklahoma State hasn’t made Garman available for interviews since he became its starting quarterback, but Dickinson acknowledged that Garman was crushed. Garman even reported he received death threats. He tried to go back to Carl Albert, but the school had a full enrollment. He attempted to transfer to nearby Choctaw, but the OSSAA denied the hardship waiver.
Ineligible seemingly everywhere in Oklahoma, Garman moved with his family to Southlake, Texas, so he could play his senior season for Carroll Senior High School, which had a track record of producing college quarterbacks like Chase Daniel (Missouri), Greg McElroy (Alabama) and Riley Dodge (North Texas). But after Garman won the starting job for the Dragons, his eligibility was rescinded. The University Interscholastic League, Texas' high school sports governing body, later denied his appeal.
Garman’s high school football career was over before it had really begun.
“No doubt he was disappointed, but he handled it a lot better than I would have,” said Carroll coach Hal Wasson. “I felt terrible for him because he didn’t do anything wrong. But he handled it very maturely.”
Wasson gave Garman the option to be just a student, since he couldn’t even suit up on Friday nights. But that wasn’t enough for Garman, who asked Wasson if he could be the scout-team quarterback to prepare the team for its games.
“He did what he could do to help the team,” Wasson said. “He certainly didn’t have to, but he chose to do it. He never complained, never whined about it ... which was a tribute to his character. And we had the best scout-team quarterback in America, I can promise you that.
“I just have tremendous respect and admiration for Daxx personally. He will always have a special place in my heart.”
Even though he didn’t get to play his senior year, Garman was offered and accepted a scholarship to play at Arizona. But the coaches who recruited him there, including current Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops, were fired midway through Garman’s first season in Tucson.
Seeking a new (and final) destination, Garman transferred to Oklahoma State as a walk-on. For two years in Stillwater he quarterbacked more scout teams. But when J.W. Walsh suffered a foot injury in the Cowboys’ second game this season, Garman finally took a game snap against Missouri State.
In less than two full games, Garman has already flashed that big arm that impressed Bell all those years ago. Garman has passed for 559 yards and four touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception or display the rust of a player who’s been sidelined five years.
“I’m happy for him,” Stoops said. “It’s been a long road."
That road has finally taken Garman back to the playing field. Yet as long as that road has been, Garman never wavered.
“Most guys would have given this up,” said Dickinson, who still works with Garman in the summers. “But he continued to train, continued to work.”
Such perseverance has finally paid off. After five years, Garman is back to doing what he does best: slinging the football.
“A lot of people in life don’t know what they want. But Daxx knew he wanted to be a quarterback,” Wasson said. “This is kind of a storybook ending for him. Daxx certainly deserves this opportunity.
“If there’s anyone who ever deserved one, it’s him.”