Editor's Note: Nashville sports historian Bill Traughber has enlightened Vanderbilt fans over the years with his thoughtful essays on Commodore history. The award-winning author has recently written another book, Vanderbilt Football: Tales of Commodore Gridiron History. The 160-page paperback book includes 55 photos and can be ordered on historypress.net for $19.99.
When longtime Vanderbilt fans think of Chuck Scott (1981-84), memories come of him streaking across the middle to catch a pass and running towards the goal line for a touchdown. No. 46 would bring fans in the stands to their feet. But the Maitland, Fla., native almost displayed his talents for a rival.
“My mom, dad and most of my family had gone to UT,” Scott said from his Atlanta home. “Johnny Majors [Vols head coach] had recruited me and was looking at me as a defensive back. I went up there on my recruiting trip and Coach Majors told me that he saw me being a great defensive back, but didn’t see me playing wide receiver in the SEC. I had my heart set on being a wide receiver so I left.
“I wanted to go to UT since I grew up loving the Vols. My dad played basketball there and my mom was a cheerleader. I came back and decided I was going to Florida State that was another school I was looking at. The only reason I went to Vanderbilt was because of Bob Capobianco, who was my high school quarterback. Vanderbilt was the only SEC school that was recruiting him and so I went up on a visit with him with no intentions of going to Vanderbilt whatsoever.
“Then Florida State gave me the telephone call that was like an airline that’s overbooked. They told me they got kids that they didn’t expect to get and wanted me to walk-on. They said I was in state, I’ve got good grades and they will give me a scholarship the next year. That made me angry. I thought, ‘how could they pull back on what they said they would do.’
“Bob Capobianco called George MacIntyre [Vanderbilt head coach] and told him what had happened to me. Coach MacIntyre called me. I spent a long time on the telephone with him and decided I was going to Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt wasn’t my plan nor my first choice by any means. But I wouldn’t trade it for the world now. I love everything about it.”
Scott played most of his freshman season on special teams and like all other first-year players found the SEC overwhelming with his older teammates and opponents bigger, faster and better. He said that most of his Commodore teammates looked upon MacIntyre as a second father who had a lot of character as a coach and family man. Their coach was highly respected.
The speedy Scott began his college football career as a flanker. But also found success lining up as a tight end.
“In the offense that we were running with Watson Brown [offensive coordinator] and Lynn Amedee [replaced Brown as offensive coordinator], we were running the spread offense,” said Scott. “At the time it was just BYU, Stanford and Vanderbilt running it. In that offense the tight end was what we called an ‘H-back’ something like another flanker on the field. You rarely lined up in a true three-point stance tight end alignment. You were always flexed out moving around--going in motion.
“Even though the position was changed from flanker to tight end, I went back and forth between a flanker and tight end. The position wasn’t that different. I just became more involved in the offense my junior and senior years. It was more of they didn’t know how to classify offenses that were running three and four-wide receivers back then. So the traditional name was somebody has to be the flanker; somebody has to be the wide receiver; somebody has to be a tight end and somebody has to be the tailback. Norman Jordan, as an example, was considered our tailback, but he never ran the ball. He lined up in the backfield and was really like a flanker too. Those were the titles we were given.”
Scott’s sophomore season in 1982 was huge for him and Vanderbilt football. The Commodores finished the regular season at 8-3 (SEC, 4-2) with victories over Memphis, Tulane, Florida (No. 14), Mississippi, Kentucky, Virginia Tech, Chattanooga and Tennessee. Scott collected 21 passes for 273 yards (13.0 avg.) and three touchdowns that season.
Vanderbilt quarterback Whit Taylor, would dash into the end zone on an option play for a late fourth-quarter touchdown to defeat the Vols, 28-21. This is the last time the Commodores defeated UT in Nashville.
“It still brings a big smile on my face today,” Scott said about the win over the Vols. “Everything in our house had gone from Orange and White to Black and Gold. My mom, dad and everybody were on board in my four years at Vanderbilt. Now, they went back to Tennessee fans, but still pull for Vandy. To score two touchdowns and have that big a day in a win over UT was big because Johnny Majors said he didn’t see me playing wide receiver in the SEC and I got a chance to show him I could. After the game he shook my hand and was very gracious.
“In all honesty, I believe he did me a big favor. The receiver position at Tennessee was for guys like Willie Gault and Anthony Miller. They were world-class sprinters that ran down the field and they just threw the ball downfield to them. That wasn’t me. I was the possession--over the middle--kind of guy, which fit Vanderbilt much better. I like Coach Majors. There were no bitter feelings. We are friends now.”
Vanderbilt finished that historic season with its third bowl game in Birmingham’s Hall of Fame game. Air Force won the game 36-28. Scott caught five passes for 93 yards. Norman Jordan broke a Vanderbilt record that still stands today with 20 receptions in one game. He totaled 173 yards and three touchdowns in the game. The Commodores finished that special season, 8-4.
“We were all very excited to have Vanderbilt in a bowl game and a winning season,” Scott said. “So many guys on that team overachieved. We had a really tight, close group of guys that stuck through everything together. There was a point in that game that I am running wide open down the field while he [Taylor] and Norman had about 20 completions in that game.
“We were all starting to get mad at them in the huddle like, ‘hey, we are out here too.’ I had five catches in that game, too. It was fun to watch him and Norman go out like that. Of course we wished we had won. I don’t know how we lost that game to be honest. It was fun to be a part of a bowl game.”
Taylor was in his final season and was the Hall of Fame game’s MVP. He completed a team-record 38 passes on 51 attempts with 452 yards which ranks second all-time in Vanderbilt history. Taylor went on to be star quarterback for several years in the newly- formed Arena Football League.
“Whit is a great friend and quality guy on and off the field,” said Scott. “Whit studied like crazy. He was so head smart. Our offense was very complicated. A lot more than people realized. When we snapped the ball, the defense pretty much told us what we were doing. Not necessarily the play called in the huddle. If we came out and they were in a certain defense, we would run a certain route. It could be one of three things.
“As a receiver I had to know what I was doing, but Whit had to know what everyone of us was doing. You had to be smart to run that offense. Whit studied, prepared and ran it to perfection. That’s what made him so successful. He’s a lot better athlete than people realize. Just quick, making people miss and getting rid of the ball. He was the perfect guy for the job that year.”
In Scott’s junior season, the Commodores dropped to 2-9 (SEC, 0-6) with wins over Iowa State and Tulane. His 70 receptions was a career high with 971 yards (13.9 avg.) and nine touchdowns.
Scott also was recognized personally with several postseason accolades. He was named to the First Team All-SEC and selected as a First Team All-American by The Sporting News.
“That was the hard thing about Vanderbilt just replacing our depth,” Scott said. “We lost so many key people and that offense was so complicated. It seemed like it was a rebuilding year. That’s when Watson left and we had to start over. We were retooling and re-learning. It was a good year for me stat wise. I got a lot of balls thrown to me and Kurt Page [quarterback] did a great job running the team. It was just everybody starting over on page one.”
In Scott’s senior season, the Commodores opened the schedule with a surprising 4-0 start. Victories came over Kansas State, Maryland, Kansas and Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The 30-21 Vanderbilt win is the last over the Tide. Vanderbilt then collapsed, winning just one of its final seven games. The Commodores were 5-6 (SEC, 2-4) on the season.
“Going into our senior year, we had that thing figured out and I thought we were as good as anybody and then we had injures to our line,” said Scott. “We lost two offensive linemen on injuries and again at Vanderbilt you don’t just have two Parade All-Americans waiting to come out on the field and replace those guys. And we lost a couple of guys on defense. The lack of depth took our offense completely out of the rhythm we had.
“I really believed if we had stayed healthy, we would have had a real legitimate shot at a 9-2 season. It was really disappointing. We were in every game. Coach MacIntyre pushed us to do whatever we could to get through that tough time, but he always stayed very positive. I remember him saying to me, ‘when you can’t change the circumstances, you can always change your attitude.’ I would get down and maybe complain. He was basically telling me to change my attitude, focus and stay positive. The circumstances are what they are, and we can’t do anything about it. So let’s have the best attitude we can.”
Scott racked up more honors as he repeated as First Team All-SEC, played in the Blue-Gray Game, the Hula Bowl and the Japan Bowl. He caught a touchdown pass in the Hula Bowl. He was also a two-time Academic All-SEC selection. In his senior campaign, Scott collected 54 passes for 975 yards with eight touchdowns.
In his four years at Vanderbilt, Scott caught 145 passes for 2,219 yards (15.3 avg.) and 20 TDs. Scott’s 20 career touchdown receptions remain second most all-time in school history. He ranks sixth all time with his 145 receptions and fifth with his 2,219 receiving yards.
“I loved it,” Scott said about his amazing final season and the All-Star games. “That was a blast to meet guys from the other colleges. Jerry Rice, Reggie White, Bruce Smith were legends in pro football and I played with (them). Doug Flutie [Heisman Trophy winner] was our quarterback. I never thought I would meet a quarterback smaller than Whit Taylor. Flutie reminded me a lot of Whit. It was just fun to meet and play football with them and realizing you could play with guys like that. You wonder when you get out there are you good enough to play with these guys in this atmosphere. You have some success, and think you can play with anybody.”
Scott was asked about his most memorable or satisfying touchdowns.
“The two touchdowns against Tennessee where we beat them stand out,” said Scott. “There should have been three. If Whit reads this, he needs to know that he should have pitched the ball to me when he optioned into the end zone for the winning touchdown [laughing].
“There is a great photo where Whit is running into the end zone holding up the ball and it’s the game-winning touchdown. I’m right behind him on the option play. I was in motion like a running back on that play. He is in the end zone celebrating the touchdown and I still have my hands out like, ‘pitch me the ball.’ So I’m mad at him for that. That would have been three touchdowns that day.
“My grandfather was an All-American at Alabama, and when we played them my junior year, my grandfather gave us a pregame speech before the Alabama game. My grandfather got going and going so Coach MacIntyre looked at me like, ‘you’ve got to cut him off, we’ve got to go.’ I had to get up and say, ‘thanks granddad,’ because he was telling stories and had everybody’s attention.
“Then on the first play of the game, I caught an 80-yard touchdown pass. We jumped on them 21-0. Then Alabama came back and killed us [44-24]. My granddad said the problem was we only let him give half his speech and that’s why we got beat. If we had let him keep going, we would have won the whole game.
“When we played Alabama at Alabama the next year, I had two touchdowns in that win. That was huge. That was when we were 4-0, highly ranked and everybody was talking about us. That was before it all fell apart. That was special for me that my grandfather was an All-American at Alabama. To beat Tennessee and Alabama was fun.”
The Los Angles Rams, in the second round of the1985 NFL draft, selected Scott. John Robinson was the Rams head coach at the time. An injury would delay his professional football career.
“That first year, in the third preseason game, I caught a ball going over the middle and got hit on my shoulder,” Scott said. “It was the same shoulder I had surgery on at Vanderbilt. I tore it up again. It was very disappointing because everything was going good at the time.
“I was getting to play and was very excited. That injury was a huge setback since I missed the whole season and you just have to sit and watch while other players got chances and opportunities. I felt like I was going to make the team, but that is the NFL. You are one play away at all times.
“I remember my first catch in a preseason game my rookie year. We were playing an exhibition game in Ohio State’s stadium against the Eagles. The stadium was packed and I ran a route like I did at Vanderbilt crossing over the middle. I caught about a 24-yard gain and thought, ‘man, this is easy. This is no different than college.’ I was cruising along until the injury.”
The following year (1986), Scott played in nine games for the Rams recording five receptions for 76 yards (15.2 avg.) and no touchdowns.
“That offense of the Rams was not the best scenario for me,” said Scott. “We had Eric Dickerson, maybe the greatest running back ever in the NFL. He was just dominating. It was more like a Tennessee-style offense like run, run and then when we did pass it was play-action-- throw the bomb. We had two sprinter wide receivers in Henry Ellard and Ron Brown. It just didn’t fit me very well at all. When I got my chances, I would go in there in a three-wide set.
“Most of the NFL teams were running three-wide and four-wide sets half the game. The Rams would do it maybe six to eight plays per game. That whole experience was frustrating going from the Vanderbilt-style offense to the Rams-style offense and then getting injured. With the limited time and opportunity, I just didn’t get many chances to do anything.”
The Rams released Scott before the 1987 season with intentions to resign him. But this was during a strike year where 85% of the veteran players did not cross the picket line. Replacement players were signed for games in weeks 4-6. The strike lasted for 24 days. The Dallas Cowboys had picked up Scott.
“That was brutal because I was trying to get on a team, but I was a veteran player,” said Scott. “I tried to honor the strike. Some of guys were going in and replacing players. So I held out for a few weeks. I was meeting with Bill Bates and those guys and they all decided to forget the strike, we are going in. [Ed] “Too Tall” Jones, Randy White and Herschel [Walker] went back. I decided if they are going, I’m going. I met Tom Landry [Dallas head coach], which was great.
“They kept me and I played. I caught a pass from Danny White during Monday Night Football. I was limited in what I got to do. Coach Landry had told me he was going to keep me until Mike Renfro, an old veteran receiver, recovered from an injury. Renfro was going to retire at the end of the season. Landry was going to be loyal to his veteran player. He was like that with his players. I knew that would be my position even though I was 12 years younger, bigger, faster and stronger. When Renfro came back there was not a spot for me.
“Then I went to the 49ers and went through one more training camp. I had hurt my neck a couple of times playing at Vanderbilt. I had gotten to where I couldn’t pass the physical. I could not look back over my shoulder for a ball coming over my shoulder. I had a great camp. It went down to the final cut day with the 49ers. I sat with Bill Walsh [49ers coach] and it just wasn’t to be. At that time it wasn’t worth the risk trying to play with my neck the way it was. I gave it up.”
In Dallas, Scott’s stats include two games with one reception for 11 yards. Scott played in 11 career games with six receptions for 87 yards for a 14.5 average. He has been back to Vanderbilt the past two years to attend the Commodores’ spring games. Scott also has two sons who play wide receiver in high school.
In 2007, Scott represented Vanderbilt in the “Legends of SEC Football.” Scott has been working for a ministry in Atlanta named Young Life for 17 years. The organization exists to have an impact on kid’s lives. Scott was asked about what Vanderbilt means to him.
“There is a lot of pride,” said Scott. “People say you went to Vanderbilt and played football? They would think I’d be embarrassed like you aren’t very good. We had a lot of pride in what we accomplished with the talent we had. The friends I had and the coaching staff are my life friends. These are the people who shaped my life more than anybody other than my dad, and I’m thankful for everything they taught and made me. Life lessons that go way beyond the football field have impacted who I am, what I stand for and what I’m about. That’s why I’m so thankful for my time at Vanderbilt.”
If you have any comments or suggestions you can contact Bill Traughber via email WLTraughber@aol.com.