Turning The Corner

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Jeff Scott

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM
Jeff Scott
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Oct. 15, 2013

By Lauren McMillin
Ole Miss Athletics Media Relations

One minute and seven seconds remain. Defeat is palpable. Regardless, the Rebels continue to play, determined to drive the ball down the field. Quarterback Bo Wallace takes the snap and hands the ball to running back Jeff Scott, with plans for Scott to run out of bounds to stop the clock. The next thing he knows, however, Scott is sprinting along the sidelines, dodging Commodores and refusing to put on the brakes until he prances into the endzone. Ole Miss has risen above Vanderbilt and the Commodores are stunned. Thanks to Scott, victory is in the hands of Rebel Nation.

Scott is key to the Rebel offense, but his lightning-quick speed and power did not emerge overnight. Scott’s ability has been a work in progress over the years, going all the way back to his early stages in life.

“My dad told me when I was around three years old, I used to run around the house all the time,” Scott said. “I think about age six, he took me out there to little league football, and that’s when I began playing football.”

A native of Miami, Fla., Scott began to seriously consider collegiate football at the start of his ninth grade year. Like many young athletes, he dreamed of becoming an NFL star, but he knew the path would be difficult.

“I always dreamed of playing in the NFL since the age of six, and to get to that route, you’ve got to go to college,” he said. “So I’m here.”

When it came down to choosing a college, Scott had options. “I had about six offers in total, and Ole Miss was my only SEC offer,” he said. “I just wanted to play in the best conference. I watched Dexter McCluster my senior year, and I saw we were pretty much similar backs, and I pictured myself doing what he was doing. So I was like, okay, that’s where I want to go.”

His first two seasons with the Rebels, Scott played under then-head coach Houston Nutt. At the start of his junior season, however, Scott and his teammates faced a new head coach (Hugh Freeze) with a new system, a drastic change that would turn around the Ole Miss program.

Scott had more adjustments to make than a new offense. In order to succeed, Scott knew he had to make his own changes.

“The difference between last year and this year is my decision making,” he said. “I watched film a lot this summer and (during) the spring. I saw a lot of mistakes that I made. Last year was my first time running this offense, so I wasn’t really familiar with the blocking schemes and the passing schemes.  This year I not only know what I have to do, (but also) what the receivers have to do and the offense has to do.”

Working with running backs coach Derrick Nix has helped propel Scott to success.

“It’s been huge, he’s been here since my freshman year, and he recruited me,” Scott said. “He’s like a second father figure to me, and I can go to him and talk to him about anything. He taught me and helped me and took my game to a whole new level. He’s a big reason why I’m successful now.”

While Scott has made improvements on the field, his new outlook has also helped him improve in the classroom, a change that was necessary if he wanted to remain with the Ole Miss program.

“I was struggling with academics,” he said. “When you first come to college, you’re wide-eyed, and everything is just so new to you. I’d never been so far from home by myself, and you just have to grow up. I think I have, and Coach Freeze helped me. Coach Freeze cares about the little things, whether you’re one minute late to class or one minute late to tutoring, and he’s right, he’s correct. I think once I noticed what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go in my life, I had to get my priorities right. Once I got my priorities right, I just started getting more successful.”

Setting his priorities straight has allowed Scott to move into a leadership position with the team.

“When I first came in as a freshman, I looked up to all the older guys, people like Brandon Bolden,” he said. “I know once he left, I had to fill some big shoes. The freshmen, they always look up to the older guys. That’s what I did when I first came in. I think that’s very important that you lead those guys down the right path. I’m always constantly giving advice, so they won’t make the same mistakes that I made when I was a freshman.”

As a senior, Scott hopes to leave his mark on the Rebels football program. “I would love to finish as the all-time leading rusher,” he said. “From what I was told, I would need about 926 yards. I probably want to take back maybe a couple more punt returns this year, but most importantly, I just want to win.”

Although this is his last year as a Rebel, Scott has big hopes for the team’s future.

“I know the program’s going to be successful,” he said. “It’s only going to get better. Coach Freeze, he’s running a great program. He changed the program around in a matter of a year, and so far, he’s started off the year pretty good. We still have a young team, so it’s only going to get better.”

With a general studies major, Scott hopes to have a chance to play in the NFL, but his ultimate desire is to give back to the people and communities that have given him so much over the years.

“I just want to coach one day,” he said. “Just get back to my community, whether it’s coaching in little league football or coaching high school, maybe one day I think I’d be able to coach at the college level being a running back coach.”

With two major runs at Vanderbilt and Texas, Scott is feeling optimistic about his final season. “It really motivates me a lot. I’m not satisfied, and as a team we’re not satisfied. We just have to continue to go out there and keep playing hard.”

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