The first offer came from Coastal Carolina when he was in eighth grade.
The scholarship offers from major Division I programs came rolling in after that, culminating with the announcement on July 31 that he verbally committed to the University of South Carolina.
Yet for all the hype and hoopla that surrounded Luke Doty’s recruitment, Friday night was the first game in which the Myrtle Beach High 16-year-old junior was the unequivocal leader of the Seahawks offense.
And it felt good.
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“It’s definitely fun,” Doty said following Myrtle Beach’s season-opening 37-0 win over Hanahan at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium. “When you have great teammates around you, great guys that are going to do their job and help you out it makes it a lot better. So we’re really excited about this year and this group of guys we have.”
Working exclusively out of the shotgun formation, Doty completed 12 of 20 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover Friday.
He finished the first half 8 of 15 for 135 yards and two touchdowns, and three of his incompletions were drops, including what would have been a 21-yard touchdown pass on fourth down. He was 4 of 5 for 42 yards and a TD in the second half, when Myrtle Beach took its foot off the pedal and predominantly ran the ball.
Doty gained 31 yards rushing on four carries – all apparent scrambles out of the shotgun formation – in addition to taking three sacks that came on his first pass attempt and two later runs out of bounds shy of the line of scrimmage.
“First game there are always some jitters but I think we got them out early and had a lot of fun,” Doty said. “I think the sky is our limit. We still have a long way to go but I think as we progress throughout this year we’re definitely going to get there.”
He completed passes to four players, as Marcus Grissett caught five passes for 55 yards and a TD, Jermani Green caught three passes for 24 yards and a score, Wyatt Roache had two catches for 36 yards, and Da’Ron Finkley had two receptions for 62 yards and a TD despite having limited playing time because of his recovery from a summer injury.
Finkley made a one-handed catch down the right sideline for his 48-yard TD reception, and Grissett deked several defenders near the line of scrimmage before racing for his 30-yard TD catch.
“It’s a great group coming back. I think we’re just scratching the surface of how good we can be,” Myrtle Beach head coach Mickey Wilson said. “. . . We’ve got a chance to be special come November and December.”
Doty believes he’ll improve as he continues to gain more experience running the Myrtle Beach offense, and he’ll be working on things as the season progresses.
“One of the biggest things is just being able to read a defense and getting the ball to my playmakers, because in the end those are the guys that are going to be scoring the touchdowns and catching balls for me,” Doty said. “So get the ball to them and let them go to work.”
As a sophomore, Doty was one of those playmakers. He split time between quarterback and wide receiver last season, as senior Lawson Cribb completed his high school career as the primary starter behind center.
Doty passed for nearly 700 yards with five touchdowns and seven interceptions, rushed for 250 yards and one touchdown and caught 35 passes for 391 yards and five scores.
Now, it’s all about one position.
“He’s had a great summer,” Wilson said. “He’s such a great leader for us, and this is really his first time being the starter and getting all the reps, and that’s a growing process no matter how talented you are. He’s going through that growing process but he continues to get better every day and every week, so we’re proud of him and I think he’ll do nothing but get better as we go.”
Listed at 6-foot-2 and 185 pounds, he has a strong arm and can run the 40-yard dash in about 4.4 seconds, according to Wilson, which would be an extremely fast time for even a wide receiver or running back.
Schools that reportedly extended scholarship offers to Doty included Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Duke, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State, TCU, Virginia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, N.C. State, Baylor and CCU.
Doty said it was his intention to choose a college before his junior season started. “South Carolina was where I wanted to be, it felt like home,” Doty said. “I had a gut feeling and I felt like in my heart South Carolina was the place I wanted to be, so we just rolled on with it and I’m very, very happy about it.
“It also gives me a really good chance to focus on my team and focus on our ultimate goal, winning a state championship. That was one of the reasons why.”
Doty has quickly adopted the leadership role for the Seahawks. He regularly chatted with and encouraged his offensive mates on the sidelines Friday while the Seahawks were on defense, and greeted each player in a line with congratulatory high fives, low fives, chest bumps or choreographed gestures following the win.
“He really enjoys playing football,” Wilson said. “He has so much fun. Sometimes I have to tell him to compose himself and calm down a little bit. He plays football like a linebacker. He’s running around, he has a good time. He’s excited. That brings a lot to our team and I think they feed off that and it makes them excited.”
His demeanor on game nights is reflective of his personality during the school day, according to Myrtle Beach High assistant principal Michael Rutenberg. So Doty’s success on the field at this level and the next isn’t likely to be encumbered by any off-field issues.
“He’s a model student, an all-around great student,” Rutenberg said. “He represents the Seahawks very well on the field and in the classroom. He has a very positive attitude and makes a positive contribution to his classmates.”