Carried by a work ethic as strong as his arm, quarterback Cody Sokol is making his way back to where he came from with a verbal commitment to play football at the University of Iowa.
The Desert Vista graduate recently finished up his sophomore season at Scottsdale Community College, where he threw for 3,807 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. He earned first team all-region, first team all-conference, and second team All-American honors this season.
"Iowa was my dream school," Sokol said. "I always wanted to be a Hawkeye."
While Sokol received nine scholarship offers, he trimmed it down to three before ultimately having to make the decision between the University of Arizona and Iowa, each place with its own significant impact on his life.
"(Iowa) set me up with a winning program where I knew I would come in and get a chance to play in bowl games," Sokol said.
A chance to run a pro-style offense at Iowa was also something that intrigued Sokol, whereas a Rich Rodriguez-led offense at Arizona would have been the more wide-open spread offense.
Add in the fact that he was born in Des Moines, Iowa, and it was a done deal. Sokol, who moved to Arizona in elementary school, still has family in Iowa and frequently visits.
With his decision, seeing those family members will be the least of his worries. At the forefront is his goal to become the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback.
Iowa's roster already includes three quarterbacks, two of whom will be seniors next season. James Vandenberg is expected to retain his starting quarterback position, with fellow senior John Wienke and redshirt freshman Jake Rudock waiting in the wings.
Sokol believes he will be redshirted next season, giving him a chance to learn the offense and prepare to compete for the starter's job with two years of eligibility left in 2013.
"Ultimately, I want to be their starter," Sokol said.
Both Sokol's high school and junior college coaches believe he is more than ready to take the next step.
"Cody's a kid who has done everything we asked of him," Scottsdale coach Doug Madoski said. "He's come a long way. He's just physically a much different kid, and mentally he's a much better football player."
Madoski and Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds touched upon his ability to lead throughout his football career as a reason for his success.
"As a quarterback, he has tremendous leadership skills," Hinds said. "He takes charge of a team and he takes charge of an offense."
Madoski echoed those sentiments.
"People want to follow him," Madoski said. "He's a true leader in every sense of the word."
Evidence of Sokol's leadership ability can come from looking at his improvement down the stretch this season for SCC.
Over the course of the last four games, he helped the Artichokes overcome a mid-season three-game losing streak by averaging 462 yards and 5.25 touchdowns a game. The team posted a 3-1 record in that span, highlighted by a 40-30 victory over nationally-ranked Snow College on Oct. 29.
"I knew going into it this was my last chance to have a phenomenal year and I'd say I was successful," Sokol said.
While natural-born leaders make some of the best quarterbacks, leadership skills can only take a player so far. When it comes to carrying the team athletically, arm strength plays an important role.
For Sokol, though, that's about as much of an issue as his leadership qualities.
"Cody can make every throw out there," Madoski said. "He's got a strong enough arm to throw 50-60 times a game."
Hinds hasn't had many better.
"He has an incredible arm," Hinds said. "He throws the 15-yard out route better than anyone I've ever seen."
The way his former coaches speak about his abilities, the Hawkeyes should be pleased with its newest team member.
"I think he's going to be a figure of stability in the program at arguably the most important position on the field," Madoski said.
While he has yet to play a down for Iowa, Sokol doesn't limit his dreams at the collegiate level.
"I would love to play in the BCS National Championship and, if I can make it a living, to play in the NFL and get paid," Sokol said.
"I know that's far, far away, but I am preparing for it now."
Chris Cole is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. He is a sophomore at Arizona State University.