Nick Scott has spent his football career at Penn State doing whatever was asked of him — starring on special teams, being the ultimate team player and leader, and never complaining about starting only two games.
Now, in his fifth season in the program, a little more than a month shy of his 23rd birthday, Scott stands to become a regular starter for the first time. Thanks to his strong showing this spring, he is ticketed for one of the two safety positions that opened up after the graduation of last year’s starters, Marcus Allen and Troy Apke.
For Scott, it’s never been a matter of “waiting my turn.”
“I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of prominent roles on special teams and things like that,” he said this past week. “So it’s really just contributing where I can my whole career, and just trying to get better every day and getting prepared for my opportunity. I was always ready to step in if I was needed wherever I was needed.
“Now that I’m being looked at as a leader on the defense and on the special teams, it’s a blessing. I think I’ve prepared pretty well with the help of the coaching staff and my teammates.”
The leadership skills earned Scott a valued responsibility as a co-captain last season. On Saturday, he was named as co-captain again, with quarterback Trace McSorley and punter Blake Gillikin.
Scott said he learned over his career with the Nittany Lions that it wasn’t only leading by example.
“Over time, I learned that it takes a little bit more,” he said. “You’ve got to be seen doing the right thing, but at the same time, you need to be vocal and push guys to do the right thing. A big part of leadership is how you serve others and sacrifice your pride and things like that for the betterment of the team.
“That’s something that I take a lot of pride in. I’m not going to say I’m the perfect leader. I’m still striving to learn and become a better leader every day.”
The 5-foot-11, 202-pound Scott went to Penn State as a running back out of Fairfax, Va. After redshirting his first year, he played the 2015 season in the backfield, with 30 carries, one touchdown run, and one TD pass, and returned 13 kickoffs.
About a week after his team finished its season at the TaxSlayer Bowl, Scott called head coach James Franklin to discuss a move to safety. After talking about it with his staff, Franklin approved the switch, though most of Scott’s playing time the following season came on special teams.
His role on defense as a backup last year increased, and he received his first start at safety in the regular-season finale at Maryland. He continued to excel on special teams with nine tackles and the return of a fumbled punt return for a touchdown.
Scott is one of the oldest players on the 2018 team, certainly the elder in his position group, where he is almost 44 months older than sophomore Lamont Wade. He said watching the younger guys reminds him of the opportunities he’s had in the program.
“I guess a little jealousy is a natural feeling that I have seeing those guys come in and knowing that they have four more years left of the best time of their lives,” he said. “I really wish that I could go and do it all over again, because the relationships you build here are like no other.”