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March 16, 2010

Great [Jake] Scott!

Jake Scott takes back a punt 90 yards for a touchdown against Tennessee in the 1968 season opener.  Six weeks later against Kentucky, he'd return two interceptions for scores.  (Photo: Hargrett Library)

I saw where Jake Scott was recently one of three former Bulldogs announced by the National Football Foundation (NFF) as a possibility for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame.  For Scott, this nomination is undoubtedly deserving but, at the same time, certainly surprising based on his past.

I first heard of Scott decades ago when my dad and I once drove by the Georgia Coliseum (now known as Stegeman Coliseum) on UGA’s campus and he told me about the Georgia football player who had driven his motorcycle up and over the basketball arena. As a kid, I was instantly intrigued with the former All-American safety.

"The Snake," his nickname in college, has been recognized by Coach Vince Dooley as the most athletic player he ever coached. Scott's 16 career interceptions and four non-offensive touchdowns (three on interception returns, one via punt return) both remain school records more than 40 years after his collegiate career ended - a career of just two seasons on Georgia's varsity.

It was Scott's junior year of 1968 and final season as a Bulldog when he first began his disassociation with the school, lasting until just over three years ago. As the story goes, after Georgia had defeated Georgia Tech to complete an undefeated 8-0-2 campaign, team members wanted to go to the Orange Bowl for an outside shot to play for a national championship. Representing the players, Scott went to Coach Dooley carrying oranges, requesting a trip to the bowl game in Miami.

There was one problem: without consulting his team, Dooley had already agreed and signed on to play in the Sugar Bowl, not for a chance at a number-one ranking but versus the number-two team in the Southwest Conference. It's a move Dooley regrets today.

Around the same time, Scott earned the SEC's player of the year award but did not even attend the banquet to accept the trophy.

Following the 1968 season, Scott negotiated a contract with the Canadian Football League and then visited Dooley again at his office. This time, however, Scott didn't have oranges in hand but instead demanded to be paid or he was leaving prior to his senior season. This occurred when an early departure for the pros, unlike today, was extremely rare.

Dooley denied Scott. So, the Snake was off to Canada with teammate Brad Johnson, riding in a pair of Corvettes the two had purchased. Dooley was incensed but directed his anger, at least on the surface, towards the British Columbia Lions - the team that signed Scott.

"I dislike and protest [the Lions'] negotiations with Jake," Dooley said in March of 1969.

After one season in the CFL, Scott finally made it to Miami and the Orange Bowl, playing for the Dolphins of the NFL. There his extraordinary play on the gridiron continued, as well as his mysteriousness, aloofness, and dislike for his head coach. This time, the coach, like Dooley, was another soon-to-be legend - Don Shula.

From the time he retired from professional football following the 1978 season to the present, one can likely count on a single hand the number of times Scott has been interviewed. This article, written by Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, is certainly telling and a must read.

The piece was printed shortly before Scott's role as the Bulldogs' honorary captain against Georgia Tech in 2006. That appearance was his first associated with UGA in nearly 40 years and, by no coincidence, not too long after Dooley's dismissal as the school's athletic director.

As Hyde's article indicates, this year is not the first time Scott has been a possible inductee into the Hall of Fame. In 2001, Dooley wanted to lobby for Scott to enter the Hall under one condition: he would show up for the induction ceremony. Communicating through Bill Stanfill, a former Georgia great who had played with Scott at both Georgia and Miami, word was sent to Dooley there was no interest.

Although members of the NFF (which you or I can be a member of for a small fee) vote for the candidates worthy of the Hall of Fame, the Hall's Honors Court actually selects the class. As is the case with many things, there can be politics involved in which players get inducted.

Vince Dooley has been a member of this Honors Court for years and, as someone “in the know" recently told me, “carries a 'big stick' in the NFF with his clout with the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) and NCAA."

With that being said, it'll be interesting to see if Jake Scott is inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this year. His performance on the football field warrants induction; however, because of the manner he has conducted himself in the past, any football accomplishments may not matter.

If he doesn't become a member of the Hall, frankly, Scott probably won't give a rip. If he does, more so than thoughts of him riding over the coliseum on a motorcycle, I'd be more intrigued in seeing if he shows up for the induction ceremony.


Anonymous said...

There was a piece on him pre-Super Bowl about the all time greats from the Super Bowl. He is still as great and wacky today. It was cool that he still sounds like he is from Jesup, though.

UGA69Dawg said...

He was MVP of the Super Bowl and when they honored past MVP's he as always didn't show. He has always been pissed that Miami didn't retire his Number but gave it to a QB who later had it retired Dan Marino.