When Oregon redshirt freshman defensive back Todd Doxey died in a swimming accident with his Duck teammates on July 13, 2008, two communities were stunned.

Eugene, his new home, so fresh and so green, and San Diego’s Barrio Logan, AKA The Coast, his old home, rough and tumble.

He was on the verge of breaking out, potential stardom, even at his young age. And that’s just football. In San Diego, especially at Hoover High School, he was a transformative figure, transcending sports and gang violence to become a community leader before his twenties even began. Nearly 3,000 people showed up at his memorial.

To those who knew and loved him, it was an unthinkable tragedy.

“Nobody’s gotten over it. Nobody ever will,” said Ollie Goulston, Doxey’s youth AAU coach turned Hoover High coach. “With Todd, we still feel it. To this day I can’t watch college football. And I’m not the only one.”


And now it has happened again.

Fourteen years to the day.

Spencer Webb, Oregon’s projected starter at tight end, died on Wednesday, July 13, in a tragic cliff-diving accident after hitting his head while jumping into a Eugene lake.

Once more, two communities are shaken to their core: Eugene, fresh and green, and Sacramento, rough and tumble.

Like Doxey, Webb emerged from tough circumstances, even if their stories were very different. Like Doxey, Webb’s story was just being written, even if some of it had been told.

Largely abandoned by his parents, Webb was headed down the wrong path until his older brother, Cody, intervened and took him in, straightened him up, and watched him blossom into a terrific student and top-flight recruit at Christian Brothers High School. With a 3.4 GPA, he even received interest from Ivy League schools.

“As sad as his death is now, I think if his brother didn’t step into the equation, I don’t think he would’ve even made it to 17, 18 years old,” said Idaho State quarterback Tyler Vander Waal, Webb’s high school quarterback and best friend. “He didn’t know any better. It wasn’t like knucklehead, teenager stuff. Before he transferred he was at River City, he was almost failing out of school. No motivation, lack of will.”

Football became Webb’s escape, like it did Doxey.

“I first met him as a junior at Christian Brothers and right away you could see this dynamic personality,” said Joe Davidson, a Sacramento Bee reporter and local preps sports institution. “He’d imitate teammates and coaches. Big, lanky – but he also won all the wind sprints. He wasn’t just a free-spirited guy. He was driven. He told me that before games he’d put a lot of eye black on and equipment, and it was a way for him to be OK looking in the mirror again.”

At Christian Brothers, Webb found himself.

At Oregon, he blossomed.

Six-foot-seven and 240 pounds, Webb was a standout on social media as well. He posted regularly on Tik-Tok, where he has more than 600,000 followers. He’d often talk to Davidson and other media members about a future in the profession, once his NFL aspirations were met, of course.

“(We’d talked) about how football is something he’d used to turn his life around,” said Jordan Schultz, a prolific sports media personality and a friend and mentor of Webb’s. “But he had a lot of other interests. When he started to have success, a big Auburn game on TV, I think everyone assumed he’d go to the NFL.”

That was Aug. 31, 2019, his first game for the Ducks as a true freshman. Webb had 3 catches for 28 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown. He’d go on to score three touchdowns in his freshman year and another last season, and he was poised for even bigger things this year.

But that was just football, Schultz said.

“He would’ve been, in my mind, successful at anything,” he said. “He had a great zest for life. He was really engaging with people, loved to learn their stories. Always the kind of kid you thought he’d succeed in anything, and football was just a part of it. I think I’d assumed, like everyone else, it was football or bust for him.”


The tragedy of another young Duck dying in a water accident is as poetic as it is tragic. It’s almost cosmic. Goulston called it “eerie.”

On July 13, 2008, Doxey joined his friends and teammates for inner tubing down McKenzie River. They were ahead of him and he jumped from Marcola Road Bridge to try to catch up, then struggled to swim across the river’s current. He quickly tired and struggled to keep his head above the water, with his teammates too far ahead to reach him. A fisherman was able to pull him in and administered CPR before an ambulance took him to McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Springfield, before he was transferred to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, where he died at 8:05 p.m.

His death took its toll immediately. It still does.

And not just on July 13.

“For me, this time of year is no different than the rest of the year,” said San Diego State men’s basketball assistant coach JayDee Luster. “Todd was my best friend, my brother. We’d known each other since we were 7, always played on the same football and basketball teams. I called his mom ‘Mom,’ his dad ‘Dad,’ his grandma ‘Grandma.’ The same as my family. We were brothers. The only difference of the anniversary is it’s more prevalent on social media. You can’t really escape it.

“But I think about him every single day. Life hasn’t been the same since he’s been gone. It’s not about the date for me.”

Luster has gone on to do great things, including an illustrious playing career at New Mexico State and then Wyoming, where he was a three-time team captain and the 2012 Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year, before becoming a graduate assistant with the Arizona Wildcats. He coached at University of Pacific for five seasons, then was hired by his hometown Aztecs last year.

“You just don’t have the words to describe it,” said Goulston, now a Columbia-based international basketball scout for colleges and pro teams. He’s had three former players die. “There’s a great sense of loss. A void in your life. You want to see them grow. His best friend was JayDee Luster, assistant coach at SDSU, with kids and a wife. You want to see those things happen. That’s the fun stuff. When they die so young, you don’t get to see that. You don’t see them reach their potential.”

In some ways, though, Todd Lamar Doxey has.

“I’ll say this first, everything I’ve done since Todd’s passing, he’s been involved in all my decisions,” Luster said. “He’s a huge part of what drives me. Our first-born child is Kaius Todd Lamar Luster. When I went to college, I graduated with two bachelor degrees, one for myself and one for him. When you’re young and lose people close to you, it changes how you look at life. At 19, I started thinking about my legacy. That’s part of the reason I got into coaching. I wanted to help kids the same way sports was able to help us.

“We were able to see beyond our circumstances.”


That part of the tragedy is what haunts Webb’s friends.

Like Doxey, they are plagued by the what ifs?

“That’s the sadness of the whole thing,” Davidson said. “We may all think we could’ve seen him in the NFL. It’s more than that. He would’ve been a good father. A good husband. A good coach. He would’ve been a radiant force of goodwill in any room.”

Vander Waal learned that in a hurry.

They were fast friends once Webb arrived from River City High School as a junior in 2016. Vander Waal became his best friend and chauffeur. They’d fish and talk football and their futures.

“It’s funny to talk about memories; I’m only 24, and it was only six years ago,” Vander Waal said. “But I remember the first time we met and hung out. He didn’t have a car, so I’d drive out to West Sac, and we’d drive around, go fishing. I went with him to get his first tattoo. He got his ribs done and I was sitting there with him. That’s what you remember. Nothing special. Some of that stuff, you’ll never forget.”

It’s a shame when a 24-year-old has to sound wistful. But they had big plans, the two of them – wives, careers, kids – and they dreamt of two things, football and yachts.


“Every friendship has its own inside joke, and that was ours,” Vander Waal said. “Not even a joke – our motivator. Ever since I met Spencer, we both had high aspirations of playing in the NFL, of being wealthy. Spencer was well on his way to achieving it.

“Even in high school, when we said goodbye, we’d say, ‘See you on the yacht.’”


The hardest part of this is, what’s it going to be like in another 14 years?

Will Vander Waal remain haunted, the same way Luster has?

Will some people never watch college football again?

Will there be another tragedy, no matter how avoidable?

“Kids, teenagers, young men – and especially college athletes – there is a sense of invincibility for them,” Goulston said. “What Todd was doing, what Spencer was doing, is no different than any other college student who feels invincible. Then something happens. It’s that age. I know all of Todd’s history, what he had to overcome in his community and neighborhood, and he went to college, had a scholarship, studying, doing well, and you don’t feel any sense of danger anymore.”

Goulston pauses. This one still hurts.

“We warn these kids, stay away from drugs, from bad people. Who bothers to warn people about swimming? It’s not on the list of things we warn them about.”