Q&A WITH JAKE SCOTT
The legendary and often misunderstood Jake Scott took time out from his busy fishing-and-traveling-the-world schedule to be interviewed via conference call this past Friday. The occasion for this rare media opportunity was Scott’s recent selection to be inducted into the National Football Foundation’s College Football Hall of Fame. The actual induction ceremonies will take place in December at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Scott, a native of Greenwood, S.C., who played football for Georgia from 1966-68, was an All-SEC and All-America safety and kick returner for the Bulldogs. He still holds the school record for career interceptions with 16, which he collected in the only two seasons he was eligible for the Bulldogs, 1967-68. Freshmen were ineligible to play in 1966 and he controversially left the team to play in the Canadian Football League in 1969 (the NFL wouldn’t draft underclassmen in those days).
After one year of CFL ball, Scott embarked on an all-star professional career with the Miami Dolphins. In Miami, Scott was selected to five Pro Bowls (1971-75), played in three Super Bowls and was named MVP of Super Bowl VII in 1972 when the Dolphins finished 17-0. He intercepted 49 career passes and recovered 13 fumbles as a pro, including three seasons with the Washington Redskins.
Scott largely disappeared from public view after retiring from the NFL in 1978. After living high up in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado for a while, he moved out to the island of Kauai in Hawaii. He still resides there, staying fishing, playing golf and hanging out with friends. He also travels extensively between Hawaii, Georgia, Key West, Fla., New Zealand, Australia and other parts unknown.
Following is the exchange between me and Jake and a few other reporters who called in to take part in what ended up being a 20-minute interview.
Q: Jake, I have to ask you the most important question of all. Did you really ride a motorcycle across the top of Stegeman Coliseum?
A: “Well, you’ve got to call Brad Johnson [UGA running back, 1966-68] because he was the witness. That is an important question. It was an exciting ride. I had an old BSA. I went over the top. Going down the other side was tough. That’s when I got afraid.”
Q: How do you feel about being selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame?
A: “I think it’s a team honor more than it is a personal honor, because football is a team sport and if it wasn’t for the good players around me at Georgia or the good players around me in Miami, I wouldn’t be there. If you’re a loser, you lose. But if you win, you’ve got to win as a team. I’m just thankful for my teammates. I’m appreciative of what I’m getting but I wish they would’ve gotten more publicity. I can’t even remember what I did. That’s when you know you’re old. I’ve been real lucky and I’m thankful for it. I try to have some humility about it.”
Q: You’ve kind of infamously been out of the limelight since your retirement from the NFL. Can you explain why you’ve been somewhat hidden from public view?
A: “Well, there’s a great world out there and you need to get out there and see it. You can get caught up in your own life too much. You should go out and see other cultures and see other people and meet different people and just understand what’s going on in the whole world and understand what it’s about. That’s my advice. You’re not going to get really rich, but you’re going to have a good life. You can stay in one place all you like, which is great. But if you get out you find out everybody has the same problems, any races, any cultures, any creeds. That’s what you’ll find out; we’re all stuck here together. We should try to figure out a way to get along.”
Q: When asked about your inclusion in the Hall of Fame, your former coach Vince Dooley said you were the best overall athlete he’d ever coached. What did you think of those remarks?
A: “Well. I don’t know, he’s had some great players there. I must’ve blackmailed him or something for him to say that. But I appreciate that, because we had some great players come through Georgia and some great players who played for Coach Dooley, so I appreciate that statement. I’m not sure if it’s true, but I appreciate it.”
Q: Is it true that you had a rift with Coach Dooley over him accepting a bid to play in the Sugar Bowl rather than the Orange Bowl in 1968? And is that why you decided to leave after your junior season?
A: “Our whole team — and I think Coach Dooley put it in his book — something happened and we were promised we could pick where we wanted to go. And something happened with [former athletic director Joel Eaves] and Coach Dooley where they took the Sugar Bowl. We felt like we had a chance to play for the national championship. This was a team thing. We just felt like he didn’t think we could go over and beat Auburn and that really hurt our team. That’s what it was about, because we thought we were headed for the Orange Bowl. I think we were [ranked] 3 or 4 and 1 and 2 were playing in the Rose Bowl, and we thought we had a chance to win a national championship at the time. That’s how we felt.
“We all wanted the Orange Bowl. We were scheduled to play Kansas in the Orange Bowl. I could be wrong; that’s been a million years ago. But I think that’s what it was. So everybody on our team was really upset because we felt like, if you’ve got a chance to go for the ring, go for the ring.You know, what the hell!”
Q: So was that why you left?
A: “Yeah, that’s why I left. I went up to Canada to play wide receiver. Brad Johnson and I went up to the B.C. Lions and I played wide receiver for a year, just because I wanted to play some offense for a little bit. I got drafted by Miami and Joe Thomas bought me out of my contract and they got me down to Miami. That’s what happened.”
Q: So what have you been doing with your time?
A: “Nothing, just fishing and playing golf. I come back to the mainland a lot. My girlfiend, Laura Braswell, she’s got Buckhead Periodonics. And my mom [Mary H. Scott], she’s in assisted living — well, she calls it ‘independent living – at Merrill Gardens there on Johnson Ferry Road in Atlanta. So I get back and forth a good bit. But mostly just messing around between Hawaii and Georgia and Florida. I get down to Key West where my sister lives. I see her a good bit. Just traveling. We head to New Zealand every now and then and Australia and mess around that way. Mostly traveling and relaxing and fishing, doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re retired, if you’re lucky.”
Q: Do you visit with your former Dolphins’ teammates much?
A: “Every now and then I talk with them. I ran into a bunch of them when I went back down last year [for the Honor Roll induction]. [Larry] Csnoka is always trying to get me to go on his fishing show. But I said, ‘the hell with that.’ If you want to come over here [to Hawaii] I’ll show you the real show on how to fish. We talk to each other every now and the. I talk to Dick Anderson and Jim before he passed away last month. But I always stay in touch.”
Q: What is your most profound on-field memory from Georgia?
A: “I guess when we got lucky and tied Houston [10-10 in 1968]. We went 8-0-2 and Houston just kicked the hell out of us. We got lucky and tied it up. Afterward, Coach Dooley said ‘I hope we can meet them again in a bowl somewhere.’ And Brad Johnson and me looked at each other said, ‘I guess he wasn’t at the same game we were at; I don’t want to see those guys again.’ That’s a true story.
“If you look it up, they killed us. Erk Russell said we’re going to have to hold them to 200 yards rushing. I think they had 220 yards in the first half and they fumbled like five times inside our 2-yard-line. But that was an embarrassing game and we got lucky to tie. They were running the veer option and we couldn’t stop them. We got lucky at the end of the game and Jim McCullough kicked a field goal to tie the game for us. We had a guy named David Rholetter, he was All-SEC tackle, and he went up to McCullough and looked at him and said, ‘McCullough, if you miss this field goal I’m gonna kill you.’ That’s a true story. But you remember your losses more than your wins. ”
Q: Some of said that ‘68 team was as good as any Georgia has ever had?
A: “We had a great football team; we really did. Nobody could block [Bill] Stanfill and we had some great players and some great guys. That’s why I thought we should’ve tried for the national championship. We could play with anybody at the time, except maybe Houston. They had like six No. 1 draft choices.
“We should have won the Tennessee game. We messed up in that one. We should have lost the Houston game, so things balanced out I guess. You can’t worry about it.”
Q: Do you ever get back for Georgia football games these days?
A: “I went to the Alabama game when they lost three or four years ago. They asked Brad Johnson and me to be honorary captains for the coin toss. That’s been about it. I don’t get back much for football games. Crowds, too many people. Can I tell you the truth? Too many people; too many [expletive]. That’s not politcally correct but that’s the truth.”
Q: I loved the story Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun Sentinel did back in 2006 when he tracked you down in Kauai. Did you read it?
A: “He had it wrong; most of it was wrong. He went to the Tahiti Nui [lounge] and had a few too many beers. But he did a pretty good job. He wrote a good story. I’m just kidding. He made me look a lot better than I am. I think he enjoyed himself while he was here.”
Q: I guess the big question now is whether you’ll actually show up for the black tie induction ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria in December. So will you?
A: “What really happened, I had a good friend, Jim Mandich [former Miami Dolphins player and talk radio personality]. Well, ‘Maddog’ Mandich passed away last month. He called me [earlier this year] and he said, ‘if I get you in the college Hall of Fame, will you cooperate?’ I said, ‘whatever you want me to do, Jim.’ So I’m going.”
Q: So will you continue to keep a low profile?
A: “I haven’t been hiding out. I’ve just been somewhere else.”