GREEN BAY, Wis. – To say Vernon Scott was an underrated draft prospect would suggest that he was rated at all following his senior season at TCU.
Well, Scott indeed was rated. Barely. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, one of the best draft analysts in the country, rated Scott 61st in this year’s safety class. The Green Bay Packers drafted him in the seventh round, making him the 22nd of 24 safeties selected.
What did the Packers see?
The last three games of the season.
When Scott returned from a midseason ankle injury, there was another injury in TCU’s three-safety alignment. Scott moved to fill that hole.
“That other spot is like a nickel corner at the NFL level,” Horned Frogs safeties coach Paul Gonzales said. “We moved him there and got him ready in the span of a week to play against Texas Tech. He had never taken any reps there before that week and he really thrived. When you look at his body of work as far as the season goes, most of his production and big plays came in the tail-end of the year when he made that move. That was a big deal for him to, ‘Hey, we’ve got to plug you in at a spot’ and he did it and he played at a high level. That was a pretty good culmination for him to the four years of work that he put in. I think that’s what a lot of people saw as they went through the tape of him. Early on, he was solid. As he moved to that spot the last three games, all of a sudden it was like, ‘Whoa, who’s this guy making all these plays?’”
Scott was a full-time starter only as a senior, when he recorded 44 tackles and was third on the team with seven pass breakups. He produced four turnovers in a span of those final three games. Against Texas Tech, he forced a fumble to preserve the victory. Against Oklahoma, he had a season-high seven tackles and a 98-yard pick-six. In the finale against West Virginia, he had one sack and one forced fumble.
“I wouldn’t say it took me by surprise,” Gonzales said. “Everybody here knew Vernon was capable of doing those things. I was just happy it finally came to reality for him as far as all his hard work and time in the film room and time studying opponents and being a student of the game paid off for him in those three weeks. We knew we could get him to do it. It was good for him to get over that hump and make those plays. I think it’s a credit to him and his hard work and dedication and perseverance through four years of playing here. He’s got really, really good athletic ability with his size and speed. That was always one of the reasons why we were trying to get him on the field because we knew he was a good athlete. Him being able to be more instinctive and have more playmaking ability is something that was developed. Those last three weeks, it came to fruition for him.”
At 6-foot-2 and 202 pounds, the Packers timed Scott with a 40 time in the 4.4s. That’s a strong combination of size and athleticism. Nonetheless, he started only two games in his first three seasons. With a strong set of spring practices, Scott won the starting job. The key, Gonzales said, was Scott turning it loose to he could be a playmaker rather than just a player.
“The biggest thing we talked about as far as him putting a season together that was going to allow him an opportunity to keep playing at the next level is we needed production,” Gonzales said. “He knew what to do, he knew how to communicate the checks. Now, it was a matter of, ‘You’ve got to produce. When you’re around the ball, go make a play. When you’re in position to make a tackle, go make a tackle.’”
Scott’s strong ending to the season allowed him to get drafted. It was a happy ending to a bit of an unusual career. He didn’t play football as a freshman or sophomore in high school. In the spring following his sophomore season, he lost his stepfather – the person responsible for Scott giving football another try in high school. His death had Scott contemplating his football future.
“He’s an unbelievable kid to be around and work with,” Gonzales said. “He’s always optimistic. He always makes the best of any situation. Even when he went through those trials and tribulations with his family, it was always, ‘Coach, I’m going to be all right. I’m going to make it for my mom.’ There was always that air of positivity with him. I think that’s why a lot of the kids in our program gravitated toward Vernon. He’s going to bring that to the Packers. That’s a good thing, especially from the standpoint of being, ‘Hey, you might have to be a role guy early on. Are you going to accept that and embrace that?’ Vernon has that personality of, ‘Hey, I just want to do what’s best for the team and find a way to make an impact somewhere.’ That’s what he’s always done here.”
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