2017-08-11 / Sports

Scott turns dream into reality

By Josh Cruse

Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott 
Contributed by Phillip Sikes/Clemson Athletics Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott Contributed by Phillip Sikes/Clemson Athletics Not many people can pinpoint the exact moment when they knew what they wanted to do as a career. Former Hammond Skyhawk quarterback Jeff Scott can do just that.

The third-year, co-offensive coordinator for the defending National Champion Clemson Tigers recalls sitting in Florida State Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Charlie Ward’s locker in 1993 prior to the Seminole’s showdown with the Miami Hurricanes. Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden came into the locker room and delivered an inspirational speech leaving Scott to dream of his future.

“I remember telling myself at that moment that was exactly what I wanted to do when I grow up. I want to be a college football coach,” Scott said.

The way Scott spent his childhood time in Tallahassee would have been a dream for most Florida State fans. His father, Brad Scott, was an assistant coach on Bowden’s staff from 1983 to 1993. To enhance the experience for the younger Scott, his elementary school was only 200 yards from the Seminoles’ practice fields.

From the time Scott was in the second grade, once the school bell rang to end the school day, he would sprint to the practice fields. He would watch the entire practice and then sit on the floor of a meeting room while the Florida State coaches reviewed practice tape and prepared the game plans.

Scott’s exposure to college football extended beyond the field. When he was as young as eight or nine years old, he recalls sitting on the floor of his living room listening to his father make phone calls to recruits. The phone calls would take hours, but once they were finished, Scott would talk with his father about the recruiting process.

It was this time with his father and Bowden that had the greatest influence to Scott’s coaching style.

“I think as a coach you are a product of the people you are around,” Scott said. “The foundation of my background around college football and coaching came from my experiences at Florida State watching Bobby Bowden coach his team and the experiences around my dad.”

In 1994, Brad Scott accepted the head coaching position at the University of South Carolina. Again, Jeff Scott got to experience the joys of being a coach‘s son, including celebrating with his father when the Gamecocks won their first-ever bowl victory in the Carquest Bowl over the West Virginia Mountaineers.

It was also during this time when Scott began focusing on his own career in football knowing he wanted to go into coaching one day. He first joined Hammond’s junior varsity team.

A year later, he played on Hammond’s varsity squad coached by Phil Sandifer. In 1997, Scott took over as the starting quarterback for the Skyhawks. That season provided one of Scott’s more infamous memories.

Heading into the annual contest with the Heathwood Hall Highlanders, Hammond had defeated Heathwood Hall nine straight times. The Skyhawk’ players were so confident they would win the game they had t-shirts made that read “Ten and Counting.”

All the players wore the shirts underneath their jerseys and shoulder pads. Unfortunately for the Skyhawks, Heathwood Hall came away with the win, ending the streak. The players were so ashamed they didn’t want to take off their pads and reveal the t-shirts to their coaches and parents. The following year, Scott got some measure of revenge leading Hammond to a defeat of Heathwood Hall.

It was also during Scott’s senior season that another memorable game took place. The Skyhawks’ first game was against Porter-Gaud. Prior to the season, the coaches and players dedicated the game to Justin Porter, a former Hammond quarterback who had died that spring.

As part of the dedication, a rock behind an endzone was named Justin’s Rock, which the players rubbed when they came on the field. The game against Porter-Gaud went to overtime. During the extra period, Scott threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Reese McWilliams in the same endzone, and the team celebrated at Justin’s Rock.

The recruiting process was a rollercoaster ride of sorts for Scott. He received interest from a few Atlantic Coast Conference schools like Wake Forest and Duke, but prior to his senior season, Scott had to have reconstructive shoulder surgery. In the end, Furman was the only school that offered.

Everything changed in late November 1998. Two days after losing to Clemson, Brad Scott was fired from the University of South Carolina. A week later, new Clemson coach Tommy Bowden hired the older Scott as a tight ends coach.

Bowden also approached Jeff Scott about walking on to the Tigers’ team as a wide receiver. Because of his aspirations to become a head coach and the opportunity to learn from Bowden and new offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez, Scott accepted the offer. By his sophomore year, Scott earned a full scholarship.

One of Scott’s best memories is against USC in 2000. Clemson was down 14-13 late in the game. Then a long pass from Woody Dantzler to Rod Gardner got the Tigers to the Gamecocks’ eight–yard line with ten seconds left. Before Clemson could attempt the short field goal, USC called a timeout.

While the Tigers were waiting, Scott approached freshman kicker Aaron Hunt and told him the ball was placed in the exact same spot where Hunt had concluded every summer kicking session.

“I told him I think it’s meant to be,” Scott said. “You’ve hit several hundred balls from that exact spot this year, so let’s go win the game.”

Hunt made the kick, and Clemson defeated USC 16-14.

Another memorable moment for Scott was the 2001 season opener against Central Florida. Scott scored on a 22-yard run on a fake field goal. The Tigers won the game 21-13.

Following his playing days at Clemson, Scott began his coaching career as an assistant at Ridge View High School under coach Kirk Burnett. Then in 2005 Blythewood High School opened and was in search of a varsity football coach.

Originally, Scott hoped to get the offensive coordinator position; however, he was urged to aim higher. Dr. Sharon Buddin left as principal at Ridge View to take the same position at Blythewood. She persuaded the 24-year-old Scott to interview for the job. A few state championship winning coaches were among the dozens of applicants.

Buddin’s belief in the young coach kept the hope alive. She recommended Scott as the Blythewood head coach to Richland School District Two, but the school board rejected the recommendation because they felt Scott was too young. Buddin decided to appeal to the superintendent and won.

“Twelve years later and after all the things I’ve accomplished in my career, I will always look back and think about Dr. Buddin as being one of the first people who believed in me as a coach,” Scott said. “Without her giving me that opportunity to be a head coach at that age and the success we had at Blythewood, I would have never had the opportunity at Clemson in 2008. I owe Dr. Buddin a lot for my career.”

It wasn’t until 2006 that Blythewood competed on the varsity level. Scott said having a year to play a junior varsity schedule was probably the biggest break his team received, considering the roster was made up of mostly ninth and tenth graders.

The Bengals began the season 1-1, before defeating Richland Northeast, which featured five Division I prospects on its roster. It was a win Scott considered the biggest win of the season.

“Our players gained a lot of confidence that we really could beat everyone on our schedule if we played well on Friday night,” Scott said.

Blythewood would finish the regular season 9- 1. Wins over Blue Ridge, Lugoff-Elgin, Greer, and Clinton put the Bengals in the 3A State Championship game in its first season of varsity competition.

Against Timberland, sophomore kicker Aaron Mayes kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired to give Blythewood its first state championship in football.

Following the 2006 season, Scott left Blythe- wood to coach the wide receivers at Presbyterian College before returning to Clemson as a graduate assistant. Heading into the 2008 season, the Tigers were picked to win the Atlantic Coast Conference and were No. 9 in the preseason national polls.

Scott hoped the expected success Clemson would enjoy would allow some current assistants to move on to other schools, freeing up a spot for him to join the Tigers’ coaching staff full time. While he ultimately got a position, it didn’t come the way he envisioned.

The season got off to a 3-3 start and resulted in Bowden’s departure, leaving Scott and the other coaches in limbo.

One of those assistant coaches became the interim head coach. His name was Dabo Swinney. Scott was promoted to wide receivers coach, a position previously held by Swinney.

Despite dropping his first game as interim head coach to Georgia Tech, Swinney guided the Tigers to a 4-2 record and earned the full time job.

Scott also received a promotion as head of recruiting.

Since the rocky 2008 season, Scott has been an intricate part of Clemson’s rise on the conference and national scene.

In December 2014, Scott, along with Tony Elliott, was promoted to co-offensive coordinator after Chad Morris left for Southern Methodist University.

A year later, the Tigers fell to Alabama in the College

Football Playoff National Championship game.

Clemson returned to the National Championship game this past season to once again face Alabama.

In a back-and-forth game, Clemson won 35-31 when Deshaun Watson found Hunter Renfrow for the game-winning score and the school’s first national championship since 1981.

While the joys of the championship have lasted long into the offseason for Scott and the rest of the Clemson program, August signals not only the start of a new football season but a new era for the Tigers.

Gone from last year’s offense are Watson, Wayne Gallman, Jordan Leggett, Aartavis Scott, and Mike Williams. All five players were drafted in the 2017 NFL draft; but they also leave huge shoes to fill.

Scott and Elliott must help find the new group of stars. Hunter Johnson, Kelly Bryant, and Zerrick Cooper will compete at quarterback; C.J. Fuller, Tavien Feaster, and Adam Choice at running back; Renfrow, Deon Cain, and Ray Ray McCloud at wide receiver; and former Hammond star Cannon Smith, and Milan Ricard, and J.C. Chalk at tight end.

“We think we have a group of talented players who are unproven. They feel like they have a lot to prove,” Scott said. “It makes it fun as a coach when you are out with a group that has a chip on its shoulder like this group.”

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