Exclusive Q&A: Team Captain Nick Scott
In a lot of ways, Nick Scott has seen and done it all as a Nittany Lion.
The senior team captain switched from running back to defensive back during his career, and the safety helped lead the program’s national resurgence, with Penn State completing consecutive 11-win seasons and appearances in New Year’s Six bowl games the past two seasons, along with the 2016 Big Ten championship.
As Scott said, the stakes are higher for him this year, with the upcoming season representing his final go-round as a Nittany Lion. There are plenty of reasons for optimism for both Scott and Penn State during the 2018 campaign. Read on for more insight in our exclusive Q&A.
HV: Does this offseason feel differently knowing that you’re going into your senior year?
Scott: A little bit — the stakes are a lot higher. Everything that I’ve wanted to do or dreamed of doing here, this is my last opportunity to do it. There are a lot of things that I want to accomplish, but at the same time, I need to remind myself to take it one step at a time and take this experience in with the guys in the locker room and enjoy it, because the fact of the matter is, I don’t know what’s outside of this right now. This has been my life for five years, so I really want to enjoy the moment and make sure that looking back when I leave here, I have something to celebrate.
HV: Can you compare yourself now to when you first got to the program? What are the biggest differences for you and how have you changed as a player?
Scott: I would say the biggest thing is just my knowledge of the game. I know I talk about that a lot, but really that’s where I’ve seen the biggest difference in myself over the years. Being an offensive player in high school, you don’t really learn much unless you study the game on your own time. Really all I knew was get the ball, run, score touchdowns and repeat (laughing). So when I came in here, I definitely gained a lot more knowledge on the offensive side of the ball for the two years that I was there, as well as the defense. That was my biggest growth, and also the importance of owning your role. It doesn’t matter where you are on the field, because at this level, every phase of the game matters.
HV: A lot of starters from last season are now gone to the NFL — do you see the situation as you need to be the defensive leader this season, or is it more of a group effort?
Scott: I would say as a captain, I definitely want to take the first step in leading this group, but I also recognize that guys like Amani Oruwariye have a lot of experience — and some might argue more experience than me — in terms of reps on the field. He’s been the third corner for a little bit more and definitely has solidified a huge role, in terms of takeaways and things like that. It’s definitely a joint effort with these older guys leading the group, and I think Amani is doing a phenomenal job right now; the corner room looks up to him like nobody else because he knows his stuff and he’s experienced. Even I do, I look up to him as well, because he’s a very smart player. It’s definitely comforting to have two older guys on the field at any time in terms of communicating and things like that, but it’s definitely a joint effort. Garrett Taylor is a guy who we haven’t seen much of on the field, but he’s very attentive in the meeting rooms. He knows what he’s doing, and he knows his calls. It’s definitely something I’ve taken ownership in, and I’ve also acknowledged other guys’ roles and the maturation of the defensive back core.
HV: Considering that last year’s entire defensive backfield was either drafted or signed a free agent contract, do you see that as motivation for this year’s group?
Scott: We definitely see that as motivation. I can’t tell you how proud I was watching Marcus and Trap (Troy Apke) and Grant (Haley) and Christian (Campbell) and all those guys go to the NFL. That’s one of the times I felt the most pride in my life. Not only because those guys are my friends and teammates, but also because they’re from my position, and I’m representing that position this year. It definitely is motivation, and this is something that we want to keep going. I think that we have the recruits and the guys in here now to have a long line of defensive backs go to the NFL and do great things at Penn State.
HV: What does it mean to you that your teammtes have voted you as team captain, and how much do you embrace having a leadership role?
Scott: It’s an honor, it’s a blessing and it’s a testament to my hard work that I put in over time. Seeing that guys have seen that and respect it, it gets me excited about the season. Being a captain before, it makes the season and the preparation a lot more personal, and there’s a little more gravity to this team, just feeling like the success or failure (of the team) is essentially my responsibility.
HV: Being a two-time captain now, will you do anything differently this season?
Scott: I would say yes and no. I think one of the things that I’m trying to do as a captain this year is be a little bit more direct. First year being a captain, I was a special teams captain, so I didn’t always feel as though I could project over guys like Marcus Allen on the defense. I felt like there was a certain amount of respect that was due to them for their experience and the fact that they were captains of the defense. Now being captain of the defense and being someone who was a captain of the special teams, I feel like I can project over both of those areas and even influence the offense, in terms of encouragement, but obviously giving Trace that respect he has over his offense; and Blake over the special teams. I think being a second-year captain and being older, I definitely am a lot more confident and a lot less concerned with people’s personal opinions. I’m a lot more concerned with what’s best for this team.
HV: What gives you the most confidence about this team going into the season?
Scott: I would say a couple things. Our leadership and our identity cover a lot of things. Definitely our leadership, we have guys leading this team right now who’ve seen both sides of the spectrum. We have guys who’ve been on the 7-6 Pinstripe Bowl team, and we have guys who were part of the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl. What that does for this team, that instills an awareness that we’ve earned everything up to this point. When I came in, when Trace came in, when Amani came in, Koa, all those guys, we weren’t good, we were very average — and we worked for every bit of success that we’ve got up to this point. Having that leadership with the newer guys who’ve come in and have just seen the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl and Big Ten Championship, we can influence the way they approach that. They can either see it as something that’s just given to them or they can see it as something that you have to work to continue to do, which I think we’re doing a great job. Also our identity, the type of guys that Penn State recruits, we have great athletes who compete and do all the necessary things the right way, so I’m not worried about guys slacking off or getting in trouble and hurting our team that way. I think those two things together, and also a number of other things, will help us to be really successful.