Former University of Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama was already considered a questionable NFL draft prospect. After being arrested on suspicion of DUI, his chances might have taken a greater hit.
“It certainly drops him,” said Rob Rang of NFLdraftscout.com. “The NFL is certainly spending a lot more attention to so-called character issues and this might raise some concern.”
Tuitama, 21, who set virtually all the school passing records, was arrested Sunday morning after a McDonald’s employee at North Campbell Avenue and East Hedrick Drive approached a police car and told the officer a drive-through customer who had just ordered appeared “very intoxicated,” a Tucson police report stated.
The officer followed the vehicle, which left the restaurant and moments later headed south through a red light, the report said. The officer then pulled over Tuitama, who had a blood-alcohol level above 0.15, the report said.
A level above 0.08 is sufficient to arrest a suspect on suspicion of driving under the influence. A level above 0.15 constitutes extreme DUI.
Tuitama has been charged with DUI, DUI with a blood-alcohol level above .078, extreme DUI with a level above 0.15, and a red light violation.
Police did not disclose Tuitama’s alleged blood-alcohol level.
“He has showed a lot of maturity and character throughout his career and for the most part has made good decisions,” UA coach Mike Stoops said after spring practice Monday. “He made a poor one (Sunday). There are consequences that will go along with it.”
The Wildcats’ starting quarterback the last three-plus seasons, besides having legal issues, might have to concern himself with the draft and possible free-agent status with the NFL draft on April 25-26.
Tuitama, the MVP of the Las Vegas Bowl victory over BYU to cap the first UA winning season in a decade, has not been considered a major player by scouting services.
NFLdraftscout considered him a late-round pick or a free agent. He was not invited last month to the NFL combine, where the top projected picks were asked to participate.
“This is a unfortunate thing for him with the draft a month away,” Rang said. “It doesn’t guarantee that he will be a free agent or not, but it might eliminate some of his suitors. It might sway some people who were supporters to reconsider.”
Scouts from nearly every team in the NFL are slated to appear at UA on Saturday for its annual pro-timing day. Players run the 40-yard dash, perform in shuttle drills and do bench presses, along with individual workouts with teams.
Tuitama, if he shows up, will likely have to address the issue for the scouts.
“I still think he can overcome it and be a NFL-caliber player,” Stoops said. “He will learn from it. He has always come back from adversity and he will have to do it on Saturday. He will have to pick his head up and come out and perform.”
The police report blacked out details of the type of “beverages” an officer allegedly saw inside Tuitama’s vehicle.
Because of the extreme DUI charge, the vehicle was towed under a 30-day mandatory impoundment law.
Police said they noticed “signs and symptoms of intoxication” when they spoke to Tuitama about 3:15 a.m. He was allowed to leave in a friend’s vehicle.
In February 2007, Tuitama was cited by law enforcement officers on suspicion of being a minor in possession of alcohol. He agreed to take part in a diversion program and avoided fines and probation in that case.
“It is very disappointing and I feel bad he made such a poor decision,” Stoops said. “It reflects negatively on our program and himself and his family. You can’t make those decisions. We talk about it pretty much daily (to the team).
“A guy who has been around that long you would think would make better decisions. That is a mistake you can’t make. I’m sure Willie is very remorseful about it and hopefully he will learn from this mistake and it will never, never happen again.”
TUITAMA PLUSES, MINUSES
Ex-Arizona quarterback Willie Tuitama’s draft prospectus before being charged with extreme DUI:
Looks the part. Good height and build for the position. Quick setup and delivery. Legitimate NFL arm strength. Experienced in a pro-style offense and has the physical tools to warrant further development.
Still struggles with consistency despite his experience. Can be fooled by creative defenses and either holds the ball too long or tries to force the issue by throwing into coverage. Can be wildly inconsistent with his accuracy, especially when on the move.
By John Moredich, Sheryl Kornman