Monday, July 8, 2013
J.K. Scott goes from soccer to Alabama
By Greg Ostendorf
DENVER -- Growing up, J.K. Scott had dreams of playing soccer in MLS. He started kicking around the soccer ball when he was just 3 years old. When he became a teenager, he was already playing for the Colorado Rapids' academy team. He was on the fast track to one day becoming a professional soccer player.
Like all high school kids, Scott’s interest would soon change, and with it, his future.
Since the time he was 8, Scott and his father would go to the local high school and kick the football. At the time, he had no desire to play football. The exercise was solely designed to make him a better soccer player.
“It was to help with my soccer, and it did, because I developed a stronger leg,” Scott said.
J.K. Scott changed from a soccer future to a football one, much to the delight of Alabama.
It didn’t take long for Scott to realize he was pretty good at kicking a football. In his first year at J.K. Mullen High School in Denver, he quickly became the kicker and punter for the freshman team. He also punted for the junior varsity squad -- all while continuing to play soccer. As a sophomore, though, he gave up his first love to focus on football.
“It was a tough choice, but I had been playing [soccer] for so long, I kind of lost the passion for it,” Scott said. "And then I loved football, so I decided to focus on that and my training for that.”
The decision paid off. Scott has turned into one of the top kickers in the country for the Class of 2014. Last year, he made three field goals of farther than 50 yards, including one from 55 yards out -- his longest career kick. He said he’s made kicks of close to 70 yards, though, in practice.
When schools began to show interest in the 6-foot-4, 185-pound kicker, it wasn’t because he could make 50-yard field goals. It was because of his ability to punt.
The University of Alabama, in particular, wanted Scott as a punter. The back-to-back national champions will have an opening at the position after the upcoming season, when senior Cody Mandell exhausts his eligibility.
With an assist from his kicking coach, Chris Sailer, Scott reached out to UA special-teams coach Bobby Williams on signing day 2013 about the opening. The interest was mutual. Scott initially visited Tuscaloosa in February for a junior day then returned in April with his family to take in one of the Tide’s practices.
“I just fell in love with Alabama,” he said.
The rising senior punter was invited back to UA a third time in June to compete in its specialists camp. The event featured more than 100 potential kickers and punters, including top prospects such as Logan Cooke (Columbia, Miss./Columbia Academy), Corbin Daly (Charlotte, N.C./Ardrey Kell) and Tyler Newsome (Carrollton, Ga./Carrollton).
“It was kind of like a tryout,” Scott said. “There was a lot of competition at the camp, but I had a good day. I hit some good ones.”
Kickers are often overlooked in recruiting but are key to any team's success. Nearly 20 of the top 50 kickers in the Class of 2014 have committed to college programs and will be attempting game-winning field goals for your favorite team down the line. Kickers rankings »
After a day of deliberation, Alabama called Scott the next day and offered a scholarship. He committed on the spot.
“I thought Alabama was the best place for me from the second visit on,” he said. “If they offered me any time after that, I would’ve committed right away.”
Sailer accompanied Scott at the Alabama camp in Tuscaloosa, and the renowned kicking coach knew where his pupil was going as soon as the Tide offered.
“It was important for him to play for a good program,” Sailer said. “Alabama’s been recruiting him since his first time out there, and basically once he was able to go on campus unofficially some time ago and then come back again on this visit, it’s one of the schools he fell in love with.
“Obviously, it’s a great staff, a great program, and academically it met the things he was looking for. He wanted to play big-time ball, so he picked Alabama.”
Scott, the former soccer star, will now have his chance to play big-time football. Although spots at Alabama are earned, not given, he’s in line to become the team’s starting punter the moment he steps on campus.