It seems as though East senior Blaine Scott was meant to be a Mountaineer.
After all, he’s known every word to “Take me home, country roads” since he was an eighth grader.
But when he learned that song back in middle school, he was heading down a different path. Scott had dreams of playing basketball at Duke, but now he’ll be singing the famous John Denver song in every home game as a football player for the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Still, the journey to get to this point has been something special to remember for Scott and his head coach James Gifford.
Gifford remembers the conversation he had with Scott in his social studies classroom several years ago.
Towards the end of the school year, Gifford asked Scott what his goals were down the road. Scott responded that he wanted a scholarship, but to play basketball at Duke.
“I said, “Blaine, you’re going to be 6’5” or 6’6” and 300-plus pounds. Do you really think you’re going to go play basketball at Duke?” I told him I would make him a deal,” Gifford recalled.
The deal was simple. “If you play football and you fall in love with the game of football as much as you did basketball, I promise you by the time you’re a junior, you’ll have Duke’s head coach in here offering you a scholarship,” Gifford said to Scott. “But it won’t be in basketball, it’ll be in football.”
Scott came back to class the next day, shook Gifford’s hand, and agreed to the terms of playing football as a freshman in high school.
As a man of his word, Gifford kept his end of the deal as well.
“Sure enough when he was a junior in high school, Coach [David] Cutcliffe, the head coach at Duke, came to our school and offered him a full scholarship,” Gifford said.
Scott didn’t begin playing football until his freshman year of high school, but it was obvious that he was going to be a force on the field even in his first season.
“He started as a freshman and dominated from day one,” Gifford said. “He’s got tremendous foot work, and that’s what I saw when I saw him play basketball. There’s a lot of guys that have size and they just can’t apply it in sports.”
The raw talent was apparent, but it was the work ethic of Scott that helped mold him into the player and individual that he is today.
“He’s a kid that goes to the life center at 5:30 in the morning to get his workout in and then comes to school,” Gifford said. “After school he goes to practice, and then [on his way home] stops and swims two miles.”
“He’s kept that pace for four years. He’s not been a kid that has done that just for a year or half a year, he does it and he doesn’t even tell people he’s doing it. It’s not like he’s doing it for show or to brag.”
But, as a coach who places a lot of emphasis on education and life after football, Gifford is most impressed with what Scott does in his time at school.
“He’s a very compassionate kid,” Gifford said. “You walk through the lunch cafeteria and he’s over there with nobody asking him to, tutoring the sixth and seventh graders.”
“We’ve got a couple special needs kids at our school. On his own with nobody asking him to do it, he’s done everything from throw a birthday party for them to throwing a Christmas party for them. He even took one of [the kids] to a wrestling match.”
Certainly, Scott has left a lasting impression on his classmates and peers. He will enroll early at West Virginia, and spend his last day at East High School on December 15th. Classes begin for Scott in Morgantown on January 5th.
The commitment from Scott came on Oct. 19, and was due to a variety of factors that Scott enjoyed about the school.
“I love the atmosphere of Morgantown,” Scott said. “It’s a very laid back town, and West Virginia is the only thing around. Of course you have Marshall, but [WVU] is the primary sporting feature in West Virginia.”
“They’ve been on the up and coming the past few years, and I’m going to have a good chance to play early. Those are just some of the factors that led me to picking West Virginia.”
Scott will make the transition from tackle to guard as a Mountaineer, but will have a legitimate chance to see the field in his first season.
“As of right now, they’re only two deep at guard,” Scott said. “Both of their starting guards are seniors, so they’re really in the need for some guards.”
“They don’t promise anything because anything can happen. But, they’re definitely looking for me to come in and compete right away and see what I can do to contribute very early.”
The recruiting process was long and grueling, but Scott enjoyed talking and building relationships with West Virginia offensive line coach Joe Wickline and defensive line coach Bruce Tall, who recruits southeast Ohio for the Mountaineers.
Of course, Scott and Gifford both got to know head coach Dana Holgorsen well, too. Scott is excited to be a part of a high flowing offense in Morgantown, as Holgorsen is one of the most renowned offensive coaches in all of college football.
West Virginia is a team that likes to throw the ball a lot, which of course is a change of pace for any high school kid making the transition to the college ranks.
Scott, however, is ready to embrace the challenge.
“I love pass blocking,” Scott said. “I really take pride in trying to pass block a lot, and the coaches at West Virginia noticed that. I really think I will go in and fit in well.”
Gifford has told Holgorsen the best is still yet to come with Scott.
“You think you love Blaine Scott now, but when he gets there he’s going to be one of your all-time favorite players,” Gifford told Holgorsen.
Most importantly for Scott and his decision to commit to West Virginia is he’s in it for more than just football.
“He’s not in it just for football, he’s not in it just for academics,” Gifford said. “He’s in it for relationships, he’s in it for getting a first class degree, and he’s in it to go win national championships. He’s in it for all the right reasons.”
“He’s going to make the locker room better, he’s going to make the school better, and he’s going to make the team better.”
Gifford feels like this might not be the last you hear of Scott in terms of playing football.
“Nothing surprises me at this point with Blaine,” Gifford said. “If he goes on and plays in the NFL and gets inducted in the Hall of Fame I wouldn’t be surprised.”
“He’s going to do special things in life. Every bit of success that he gets, he deserves.”
Like any coach, Gifford is thrilled to have one of his own play at the next level, especially at a Big XII school like West Virginia. But at the end of the day, it’s about more than that.
“I’m 100 percent excited for any kid from any school in our area to go on and play at the college level,” Gifford said. “If you’re playing at the college level, you’re getting a college degree, and that’s what it comes down to.”
“I have players that go to college and say “Coach what do I owe you?” Well, you don’t owe me anything. You’ll pay me back when I’m sitting down watching you walk across the stage receiving your diploma.”
The tales of Scott aren’t over yet, as the journey is just beginning in the career of a kid from Sciotoville.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer