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Austin High graduate John Scott was selected as a permanent team captain of the Jacksonville State football team this week. Scott also received his degree in recreation administration Thursday.
Courtesy photo
Austin High graduate John Scott was selected as a permanent team captain of the Jacksonville State football team this week. Scott also received his degree in recreation administration Thursday.

Scott takes high road to success at Jax State

By Dennis Victory sports@decaturdaily.com

JACKSONVILLE — The circuitous and sometimes trying road of John Scott's life meandered aimlessly until settling on a point at Jacksonville State University.

Plenty of life experiences remain for the former Austin football star and current Gamecocks senior, but Friday's activities in Jacksonville will forever remain a push-pin memory on Scott's life path.

Selected one of three permanent captains for the Gamecocks' upcoming football season, Scott was surprised to see his photo on the cover of the school media guide released during Thursday's media day luncheon.

Not surprising and even more satisfying, Scott picked up his bachelor's degree during a commencement ceremony later in the day.

"This is one of the biggest things that has happened to me," Scott said.

"I think when it's all said and done, where I came from, this is something I can tell my kids about."

The 6-foot-2, 290-pound nose guard is one of only four defensive starters returning for the Gamecocks and should anchor the defensive line.

After sitting out his first year at Jacksonville State because of academic ineligibility, Scott has played in 31 of 33 games in the past three seasons and earned a full-time starting role last year as a junior.

Scott's journey to Jacksonville State started in Yonkers, N.Y., growing up
hard when his father left when Scott was still a young child.

His biggest influence, older brother Jason Tennison, chose a dark, but well-worn path of drugs and mayhem selected
by many in Scott's neighborhood.

When Scott's mother, Paulette Tennison, saw the teenager emulating his older brother, she changed the course, moving to Decatur where Tennison had spent the first four years of her life.

Scott enrolled at Austin as a sophomore and played football his final two years for the Black Bears.

He earned honorable mention all-state both years and also helped Austin to a regional championship in basketball.

Grades were never a priority for Scott.

He enrolled at Jacksonville State as a Prop 48 signee, forfeiting his first season. Jacksonville coach Jack Crowe first noticed Scott the next year during strenuous preseason two-a-day workouts.

The athletic Scott was unaccustomed to the type of work needed to excel at the college level, succeeding in high school on skill and talent. Tired and distraught during the arduous schedule, Scott almost quit several times.

Calls to friend and former Austin teammate Juwan Simpson, who faced similar travails at Alabama, helped, but Scott still struggled.

"He first came in here, when he reached the point of fatigue, he would quit," Crowe said.

"He didn't respond, didn't have the mental toughness needed. To his credit, he figured out real quick what some guys
never figure out."

Crowe gradually became a fan as Scott took the understanding to another level, especially his play last year.

Scott suffered what most believed was a season-ending ankle injury against Chattanooga in the Gamecocks' ninth game of the season.

He missed the Samford game, but came back to play well in the final contest against Eastern Illinois.

"That's what defines people," Crowe said "That's the kind of thing you remember in this game."

Scott never considered college growing up in Yonkers, and Friday's graduation ceremony embodied hope when those around him saw mostly despair. His success motivated brother Jason Tennison into moving to Decatur where he's doing well with his own family.

The 21-year-old Scott hopes to play football at the professional level, but wants to use his
degree in recreation administration to own a youth
facility.

He'll soon start working toward a master's degree in special education.

"I love kids," Scott said. "Younger kids look up to you, and if they see you doing well, that's an inspiration to them. I really didn't have that growing up."

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