MOSCOW, Idaho – Mike Scott looked at the caller I.D. on his phone. It was the day before he was scheduled to leave for Las Cruces, N.M., and Idaho defensive coordinator Mark Criner was calling.
This was in July of this summer, long after most college football teams had wrapped up their 2011 recruiting. But Scott, a junior college wide receiver, was still available – or at least he had been.
Days before, it turns out, Scott had finalized plans to walk on to New Mexico State. He had already enrolled at NMSU and was preparing for his trip.
And then, a moment later, his plans changed.
Criner offered Scott an invite to walk on to UI, which needed extra receivers to start preseason camp. Scott quickly accepted – and just as quickly started to dread making a call of his own to New Mexico State coaches.
“I felt bad, but as a man I felt that I had to call them and let them know,” he said.
Informing NMSU of his switch might have been the only awkward few minutes of the past two months for Scott, the Vandals’ leading receiver going into Saturday’s trip to No. 9 Texas A&M.
The 5-foot-11 junior from East Palo Alto, Calif., came to Moscow for the first time just before camp, almost completely unaware of Idaho’s system, personnel and coaching staff. He also had no idea what his role would be. But with injuries to the team’s top wideouts, Preston Davis and Justin Veltung, Scott has blossomed into a favorite target for Brian Reader – a quarterback he played against in high school in the Bay Area.
After two weeks he’s in the top four in receptions and yards in the WAC, and this comes after a productive fall camp when he found out he would be on scholarship.
“At times you sit back and it feels like a movie or a dream or something,” he said “Something like this … it happened so fast. It’s kind of like I don’t want to wake up from it. I really don’t.”
Scott spent the past two years at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, Calif., where he garnered all-conference honors at wideout. But he attracted no interest from Division I schools and said he had little help from his coaches.
So this summer he started contacting schools himself. Fresno State and San Jose State told him they were set at receiver, so his chances of playing as a walk-on weren’t good. He got the same vibe from Tennessee-Chattanooga.
But New Mexico State was interested, and Scott liked how its coaching staff treated him. Then he heard from Criner, who became intrigued with Scott after talking to the staff at nearby College of San Mateo.
Watching Scott’s game tape, Idaho coaches could see his potential. Receivers coach Luther Carr expected Scott to play right away, largely because he could see he was a physical, aggressive receiver – despite weighing just 178 pounds.
Robb Akey also hoped for this kind of contribution from Scott. But he always has reservations with JC transfers.
“… Division I football is a step up, a different world than what junior college film is,” the Vandals’ fifth-year coach said.
Scott, though, has made what seems like effortless transition. He started in place of Veltung in the Vandals’ opener and on the second play from scrimmage caught a 51-yard trick pass.
Last week, with Veltung making his way back from a turf toe injury, Scott snared his first touchdown and was just shy of a 100-yard receiving day.
“He’s a great route runner. Runs real hard routes,” Carr said. “He’s probably more quick than fast, but his first couple steps off the line of scrimmage – kind of like Max Komar – are real explosive.”
Comparisons to Komar, a former Vandals receiver who played for the Arizona Cardinals last year, would no doubt be welcomed by Scott. Then again, two months ago, he was just hoping to make Idaho’s team.
“Coming in so late and everything moves so fast, if you don’t jump on that train, then you’re going to be left behind …” he said. “Fortunately, I picked things up pretty quickly and here we are.”