Just minutes after receiving an official offer from coach Bill O’Brien over the phone in the fall, Nick Scott rushed to practice and announced the good news to his Fairfax High School team.
However, Fairfax coach Kevin Simonds said the reaction wasn’t necessarily as positive as his player would have expected.
“A couple of the coaches and a couple of the guys that were around made a comment,” Simonds recalled. “ ‘Why would you go there? They’re not even going to be able to play in a bowl game or do anything for the next couple years.’ ”
The reaction from select team members wasn’t nearly enough to deter Scott — Penn State’s second verbal commit of the 2014 freshman class — from ultimately accepting O’Brien’s offer. The speedy 5-foot-11, 180-pound athlete from Fairfax, Va., made his commitment official on Saturday and Simonds said he did so for all the right reasons, with a good quality of education standing atop the list.
Scott currently lives in Virginia after moving there from Boston less than a year ago. However, he grew up in Lancaster and said he has always connected with the Penn State community because of these roots.
“Penn State is a part of who I am and it’s never left my mind,” Scott said. “I’ve received a lot of questions about the sanctions, but I’m not really paying attention to that. If you love the game of football and you have a great team and fan base and you respect each other, that’s all that matters.”
Scott has primarily played running back in high school but has also spent time at the wide receiver, corner and quarterback positions.
The high school junior has not yet been rated by most recruiting services, but Scout.com Director of Scouting Scott Kennedy said he’s likely to earn stars in the future mainly due to his quickness — he has run a 4.5 second 40-meter dash.
Kennedy said he predicts Scott to translate best at the next level as a running back, but noted that having the option to move him elsewhere will probably be enticing for Penn State’s staff.
“I see a top 500 guy. I think he’s a very good, underrated pick-up,” Kennedy said. “I see a lot of potential there at multiple positions, between the athleticism and the versatility. He’s got pretty good instincts.”
Scott had received interest from several big-name schools, including the likes of Alabama, but had only received offers from Penn State and Boston College so far. Simonds said he still expected many other schools to make offers down the road.
The high school coach raved about the diverse talents of Scott, whom he described as a shifty runner with an incredible set of hands. Simonds added that Scott can also throw the ball if asked to do so — leading Simonds to believe using him in the Wildcat formation may be an option for the Nittany Lions’ offense.
Simonds said Scott’s humble personality also makes him an enticing recruit. The high school coach recalled a game that Scott ran for more than 200 yards, yet chose to address the play of his teammates before his own when interviewed afterward.
“Nick said, ‘Well, first, I’m not going anywhere without my linemen, so I want to give a big shoutout to them,’ ” Simonds said.
“He’s one of those guys that’s going to push off the accolades and compliment his teammates because he knows that’s what’s going on.”
It would make sense, then, that Scott mentioned the humility of the Penn State coaching staff as a main draw for him when he made his first official visit for Junior Day this past weekend.
The commit said O’Brien was especially personable when the two met in person for the first time during his visit.
“He is such a humble man,” Scott said. “For all his accomplishments and the great things he’s done with the Patriots and going to the Super Bowl, I didn’t get the feeling that he put himself on a pedestal. He was talking to me man to man and I respect a guy like that and will play for a guy like that any day.”
Despite growing up less than two hours away from Penn State, Scott said he never stepped foot onto campus until his visit, and seeing the entire setting helped fortify a decision that he had already been leaning toward for months.
However, Scott said it was the scene upon walking into Beaver Stadium that helped him most realize there was no going back on his decision.
“One thing that really did it, and I’m sure it does it for a lot of guys,” Scott said, “was when I walked in that stadium and turned around and saw all those seats and imagined 108,000 fans. That was the cherry on top. I was like, ‘All right. This is the place.’ ”