Football saved Imhotep star safety Scott

STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Imhotep safety Deandre Scott has gone from a kid bound for trouble in the streets to a top college football prospect.
STEVEN M. FALK / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Imhotep safety Deandre Scott has gone from a kid bound for trouble in the streets to a top college football prospect.
Posted: October 24, 2013

THE STRUGGLE is real. Imhotep Charter senior strong safety Deandre Scott knows it well. He doesn't shy from it, nor does it shame him. In fact, struggle is the driving force in his life.

A force he summons on the football field to propel his 5-8, 180-pound frame into whoever is unfortunate enough to draw his gaze.

But don't listen to someone else's words. Read a few lines from a poem titled "Struggle," composed by the young man himself.

"Every night I wake up and think to myself, the struggle made me, the struggle raised me. There's pain in my heart because I struggled since I was a baby . . . "

Bullied as a youngster because of his size and a predilection for writing, not fighting, the 18-year-old, who lives in North Philadelphia, is now a coveted college football prospect with 37 scholarship offers, including nationally ranked Miami, South Carolina and Nebraska.

A future that included college wasn't likely for Scott when neighborhood kids picked on him, and the lure of the streets nearly consumed him as his family dealt with financial difficulties. From around ages 9 to 11, Scott said, his family lived in Olney. Kids on the block, he said, would go around and punch people for fun.

"They called it catchin' wreck," he said.

"That was never me. I never was the type to do the things that other kids like to do."

Instead, he grew introverted and was labeled "weird," because he muttered poems to himself as he strolled the block.

When the verbal attacks became intolerable, he spewed venom from his mouth, and when situations became physical, he tried to fend off his aggressors, but his size made it difficult.

He also thought he couldn't tell his mother, Sabrina Cook, 43, with whom he lives, because her maternal instincts would have been to protect him.

"I didn't know how to react to it, because I was young, and I didn't know how to use my hands," he said. "So I used to punch walls and stuff, and then football came along. Now, when I get mad, I just wait until practice."

Despite underwhelming size, Scott has earned a reputation as one of the city's hardest hitters.

For his teammates however, he tempers the severity of his blows.

"But in a game, it all comes out," he said. "It doesn't matter who it is or what it is. If it's a lineman, a linebacker, a quarterback, running back, whatever. I'm going to hit 'em."

Scott is also a threat to score whenever he touches the ball. He owns 10 career touchdown returns: two from kickoffs, two via punt, five off interceptions and one a fumble return.

Oh, and don't forget about his skills in the backfield. Against Catholic League Class AAA Bonner-Prendergast in Week 8 this year, Imhotep head coach Albie Crosby recalled, his team was backed up on a third-and-36.

"I put him in the game and instead of getting me 36, he got me 65 and a touchdown," Crosby said with a chuckle. The Public League Class AA Panthers (7-1, 4-0 PL AA), won the game, 45-13.

Talented though he may be, Scott almost never met the sport that seems poised to open doors for him. Money was tight growing up, which increased the allure of the streets.

"Even though we had food to eat and clothes on our backs, when you're out with your friends and you see them with all this stuff, you feel left out," Scott said.

Not wanting to burden his parents with his desires, he internalized again and inventoried his options.

"You just look down at yourself, like, I need to do something, do something quick."

School also became a challenge. As a freshman at Samuel Fels, Scott said, he lost focus, cut classes, hung out with friends and was headed for the street.

His father, Harris Scott, 45, intervened and presented the possible outcomes from that life.

"It will be fast money," Deandre remembered his dad saying. "But that money goes quick, because you either get locked up or get killed. And when I found out football could give me money to go to college, I thought, I'll use my talent to the best of my ability."

Dad approves.

"Wow, I'm so proud of him," Harris Scott said of his son over the phone. "He's come a long way. I'm watching him become more of a man, and he's growing into a leader. And it's a great feeling, because his brother now looks up to him."

Harris Scott said he met and liked the Imhotep football coaches, and also was drawn to the school's academic environment. His son, Devonte, 15, is a 6-2, 265-pound sophomore offensive lineman for the Panthers.

When Deandre transferred to the school, he said, his GPA was a 1.2. Now, he carries a 2.7, with the goal of at least a 3.0. And of college he says, "I'm really looking forward to it and getting my master's, just to be somebody important in the world."

He credits Imhotep with changing his life's course.

"I wouldn't be getting recruited," Scott said. "I wouldn't even be playing football, probably. I'd probably be in the streets somewhere, doing dumb stuff. I probably wouldn't even be in school right now."

So, which college will he choose?

Scott said that decision will come Jan. 4 at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl in Orlando, Fla., which showcases top high school players from across the nation. His top five: Nebraska, Arizona State, Temple, Central Florida and Buffalo.

In his bedroom rest three blue recycling tubs, chock-full of recruitment letters, symbolically encasing a future that bullies couldn't stop, and the streets couldn't steal.

He plans to keep them as a reminder of his struggle.

"One day, I'm going to look back and say I really was good in high school, and I stopped doing what I was doing to play football and do well in school," he said.

"At the end of the day, it's about sacrifice. Once you sacrifice what you want to do for what you love doing and for what's right, it's going to get you far."

On Twitter: @AceCarterDN

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