Darrell Scott is used to thwarting whatever defenses throw at him.
Send eight defenders into the box and the St. Bonaventure (Ventura, Calif.) senior running back will bounce outside for a long touchdown. Force him to run between the tackles and he'll run you over.
Truth be told, the 6-foot-1, 215-pounder loves contact and is so powerful that he's been known to drag multiple defenders with him on his way to the end zone. And while his body takes a tremendous toll from the pounding, the resilient Scott will always make his way to practice the day after games.
This past June, however, Scott was in so much pain that he couldn't get out of bed and was forced to miss the Seraphs' trip to a skills camp at USC. The diagnosis was a lower back strain, but the cause wasn't football related -- and that made for an embarrassing confession from Scott to head coach Todd Therrien.
Turns out Scott hurt his back by playing more than three hours of air hockey. Therrien admits that all he could do was laugh when Scott broke the news, and Scott says he still hasn't heard the end of it from teammates.
"I was calling people out and I was dominating," says Scott, whose back is now healthy. "I'm a competitor, and my back ended up getting all out of whack. It was crazy. It was ironic. I was like, 'Dude, what's going on? I can take blows from 235-pound linebackers.'
"Air hockey is my worst enemy right now," he adds with a laugh.
Needless to say, Scott hasn't played any air hockey since the injury. Instead, he's chosen to focus all of his competitiveness on the football field.
Rated the nation's No. 1 running back and No. 2 overall recruit in the Class of 2008 by RISE, Scott is arguably the country's best high school running back since former Oklahoma All-American and current Minnesota Vikings star Adrian Peterson suited up for Palestine (Palestine, Texas) in the fall of 2003. Scott can run the 40-yard dash consistently in 4.4 seconds, and he even clocked a ridiculous 4.32 at the Los Angeles Scout.com Combine last April. As if his speed wasn't enough for defenders to deal with, Scott can also power clean 315 pounds and bench 300, which helps explain why he can stiff-arm talented defenders like he's batting away flies.
Therrien, who's in his first year as head coach, first witnessed those skills when Scott was a sophomore in 2005. Scott was playing for Moorpark at the time, while Therrien was the defensive coordinator for St. Bonaventure charged with the unenviable task of stopping the all-around back in the Southern Section Division IV finals. The Seraphs went on to win, 27-7, but Scott managed to shine in defeat by rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
"He had size, speed and wasn't afraid of contact," recalls Therrien. "There were no flaws to him. He was phenomenal."
Scott ran for 1,988 yards and 19 touchdowns his sophomore season to put himself on the map. He then cemented his status as the nation's top back as a junior at Moorpark when he rushed for an insane total of 3,194 yards on 337 carries (9.5 yards per carry) and scored 46 total touchdowns to earn Player of the Year honors from the L.A. Daily News.
The star back followed his junior campaign by transferring to St. Bonaventure last January. Scott was a little nervous about how his new teammates would accept him, so he strived to earn their respect by going all out during the team's offseason workout program. In the process, he improved his bench press by 55 pounds and power clean by 50 pounds.
"I wanted to show people that this wasn't handed to me," says Scott.
"He's the No. 1 running back in the country, but he brings his lunch pail to work," adds Therrien. "There was definitely some hesitancy, but once he started busting his butt, he was accepted."
While Scott proved he had a tremendous work ethic during offseason drills, he knew he needed to get it done on the field this fall. He got his chance in a 15-14 season-opening win against Santa Margarita, rushing for the game-winning two-point conversion to cap the Seraphs' comeback from a 14-0 deficit with less than four minutes remaining. On St. Bonaventure's first touchdown drive, Scott caught a key pass on third down where he showed off his special skills.
"He dragged seven defenders on his way to the first down, one of which he knocked their helmet off," says Therrien. "It was unbelievable. I've never seen a guy punish guys like Darrell does."
Scott continued to punish opponents after the Santa Margarita win, rushing for 301 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-17 victory over defending Division I state champ Canyon (Country, Calif.). The following week, he piled up 234 yards and five scores in a 41-33 win over defending Division III state champ Oaks Christian, a win that snapped the Lions' Southern Section-record 48-game winning streak.
Performances like those against quality opponents have many believing Scott will be a standout on the next level and beyond. However, becoming a football star is just one of his many goals.
"I'm trying to get out of high school, go to college and a get a good education so I can make my mom proud," says Scott, whose top schools were Florida, LSU, UCLA and USC at press time. "I want to try to play three years in college and go to the league."
One thing's for sure -- he won't be playing much air hockey.