It looked like Trevor Scott was playing the wrong position for an offense that couldn't score, on a team that never experienced success on the Division-I level.
During his sophomore year in 2005 at the University at Buffalo, Scott was a reserve tight end struggling to get onto the field. The Bulls' offense averaged just 10 points a game that season and hobbled towards a disappointing 1-11 record.
Scott's football future looked bleek when he sustained a back injury against Ohio during the lackluster campaign. The injury knocked Scott out for the remainder of the year and sent him on a difficult path toward recovery.
Four years later, the Potsdam, NY native is fully recovered and displaying a relentless and energetic attitude that might reward him with a starting role for the Oakland Raiders.
After an impressive rookie season in which Scott totaled 24 tackles and five sacks, the 6-foot-5, 255 lb. defensive end continues to surprise and impress coaches. He is now vying for a starting spot on the Raiders' defense this summer, a situation Scott, once an undersized prospect from tiny Potsdam High School in upstate New York, could not have seen coming.
"Back when I was a freshman in high school, I was so small and I wasn't very strong. I wanted to play Division I, but a lot of people told me there is a small percentage of high school players that go Division I," Scott said to The Spectrum during his senior year at UB.
"I didn't really care, and also had other thoughts of joining the service and stuff like that. So if football didn't work out I was just going to enlist."
Now, Scott finds himself in a different kind of battle. He is competing with Derrick Burgess, Jay Richardson, and the other defensive ends on the Raiders roster for the two starting spots.
With Burgess holding out and Richardson injured, Scott is seeing time with the first-team defense during off-season practices.
But Scott had to deal with adversity before ever donning the silver and black of Raider Nation. The back injury provided Scott with an uphill climb to get back into uniform for the Bulls.
As if the road back onto the field wasn't tough enough, Scott's mind was hit with a feeling of uncertainty after the '05 season when Buffalo coach Jim Hofher was fired after five seasons of dismal performance and losing football.
In came Turner Gill, who quickly implemented changes. This included moving Scott to defensive end, where the Bulls were weak and undermanned.
Not even Scott knew how the move would turn out.
"It was crazy at first...I was playing tight end for three years here, so I just had to get that defensive mindset back," he said.
As it turned out, the switch benefited both Scott and the Bulls. Though raw, Scott used his athleticism and quickness to wreck havoc in the offensive backfield. He finished the '06 season with 45 tackles, nine sacks, and a Second Team All-MAC selection, surprising even the most experienced of college football pundits.
Scott continued to excel at his new position during '07. As a senior, Scott sacked the quarterback 10 times, setting a Buffalo Division I record and elevating his draft stock.
Even though Scott amassed spectacular numbers in just two years as a NCAA defensive end, scouts had a multitude of questions concerning his potential as a pro.
He was described as a player lacking strength and the all-around skills needed to be an every-down defender. SI.com described Scott as someone needing to "play within himself rather than just mindlessly rushing up the field."
Scott was predicted to be an undrafted free agent, a player that would struggle to make an NFL roster, and a project that needed a lot of work.
Impressed by his workout numbers—which included a 4.54 40-yard dash—and college statistics, the Raiders took the risk and drafted Scott with their sixth-round pick.
Scott was low on the depth chart in the beginning of the '08 season. He impressed coaches with his non-stop motor and started off getting playing time on special teams.
But Scott was provided a chance to prove his worth. Injuries hit the Raiders defensive line, resulting in a golden opportunity for the unsuspecting rookie. He began seeing playing time on defense during Oakland's sixth game against New Orleans.
Scott's coming-out party took place the following week against the Jets. Against legend Brett Favre, Scott received his most playing time of the season on nickel packages where the Jets were expected to throw the ball.
The result? Scott tormented Favre and the Jets, ending up with his first two sacks and a forced fumble. He was nominated for Rookie of the Week honors and immediately became an intriguing player.
Though he mostly continued to play on passing downs, Scott saw his downs increase. He tallied another sack two games later against Atlanta and dominated in Oakland's 14th game of the season, finishing with two sacks against the New England Patriots.
Despite limited time, Scott made his mark. He worked hard to get into the rotation and took advantage of the opportunity he received.
But the emerging defender it not satisfied yet. The focused Scott has buckled down during the offseason to put more muscle mass on to become a factor against the run. Practicing with the starters during OTAs, Scott doesn't play on relinquishing the role as a starting defender.
"I just don't want to be looked at as, 'Trevor's out there, pass rush.' I want to be that complete D end that can do both," he said to reporters last week.
He became a fan favorite. An underdog player that worked himself up to the starting ranks, Scott has coaches and fans alike curious as to what he can do with more playing time.
His goal: to become an every down player. A year after coming in as an giddy rookie, Scott's comfort level is sky-high as he works on expanding his role.
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