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Offseason | 2023

Spagnola: Great Scott, What A Sixth-Round Find


FRISCO, Texas – Must admit, never seen Eric Scott Jr. play a game for Southern Mississippi, and if possibly casually watching a Golden Eagles game, sure wasn't watching as if a scout.

Have only seen his highlight video, and let's remember, there is meaning to _high_lights because normally prior to the draft there is no such thing as _low_lights circulating around.

But just have this sneaky suspicion there is something to Eric Scott Jr., the sixth-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, 178th overall.

And as your intrepid detective, here are some uncovered telltale clues.

First, most of those draftniks out there had rated Scott as no more than maybe a priority free agent. In our _Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine_ Draft Guide, Scott didn't even rate one of the 10 bios or an "Under The Radar" selection. He was ranked the 33rd cornerback. In another draft guide, Scott came in 60th. And in another projection, he was 76th, his 5.65 grade had him as a "candidate for the bottom of the roster or practice squad player," and as a priority free agent.

Why, Scott wasn't even invited to play in the Senior Bowl, nor to workout at the NFL Scouting Combine, but at least he was a starting cornerback in the East-West Shrine game.

Yet the Cowboys must have suspected something. After all, they traded their 2024 fifth-round draft choice to Kansas City for the very first pick in the sixth round, the 33rd of 56 defensive backs selected in this draft.

Makes you go _hmmm,_ doesn't it?

The kid had tears in his eyes when the call came in from the Cowboys. His voice was trembling when talking with owner Jerry Jones on the call. During his _Draft Show_ interview, the overriding emotion continued to cause his voice to break up.

He was asked who was the most underrated player he's played against and why? Well, his answer was, "Me, I've been to small schools and been called the underdog. Always wore that proudly."

His tears were born out of grateful relief after an extended journey laced with persistence when Scott had nearly lost his way after leaving high school in Basehor, Kan., a small town about 25 miles west of Kansas City, just north of I-70, with a student population of less than 1,000.

With few offers coming out of high school, Scott ended up at Illinois State, an FCS school in the Missouri Valley Conference. And things didn't turn out well there for Scott, leaving after playing just four games in his redshirt freshman season, then returning to Kansas to enroll in Butler Community College, in El Dorado, Kan., for a restart that 2019 season. Am told his parents sort of read him the riot act.

Well, Scott made the most of his time at Butler, where current Cowboys DeMarcus Lawrence and Michael Gallup played, a steppingstone for them to Boise State and Colorado State, respectively. His performance there then led him to Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg the following season.

During his time playing for the Golden Eagles, Scott earned the respect of head coach Will Hall, who has said this about Scott:

"If you're ever around him, he's the epitome of our culture. He really wakes up every day and chooses his attitude and chooses to respond the right way, no matter what the circumstances are.

"He's a kid that didn't have a lot going on out of high school, made some bad decisions, ended up in junior college, and totally has transformed his life."

So how did the Cowboys unearth this potential NFL diamond in the rough?

Well, let's start with Cowboys Mid-South area scout Sam Garza, who recognized Scott's ability, first getting him on the team's radar. Then it was getting to know him a little bit better at the East-West game. And even though Scott wasn't invited to the Senior Bowl nor the combine, the Cowboys were intrigued enough to attend his Pro Day workout at Southern Miss.

Unfortunately, during his workout, Scott pulled a quad muscle a couple of steps into running the 40-yard dash, yet exhibited that aforementioned persistence by finishing the run anyway. So his time was recorded at 4.72 for the unknown. A cornerback running a 4.72 without knowing the circumstances will send out red flags.

The Cowboys knew the circumstances.

Undaunted, Scott and his agent came up with a great idea. Once healthy, they recorded a video simulating what a Pro Day workout would have been for a corner. Doing the W-Drill, asking a corner to back pedal, then sprint forward, back pedal then sprint forward while catching a pass.

So when asked after Dallas drafted him if he had worked out for Cowboys defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, Scott said, "I didn't in person, but I did a video and had it sent to them about two to three weeks before the draft," having contracted with a photographer to video his session, with his agent sending the video to various teams. "I had him come and get video, aerial footage and a whole bunch of other stuff."

See for yourself. You can find it on YouTube.

The Cowboys had seen enough, and so did other clubs, since Scott took 30 visits to not only the Cowboys but also Minnesota, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay and New Orleans. Just further evidence that teams leave no stone unturned in the scouting process.

"Well, you go to his Pro Day and he jumps 39 (inches) but he pulls his quad," says Will McClay, Cowboys vice president of player personnel, also knowing he had an 11-foot, 1-inch broad jump. "But he runs the 40, most people pull up and stop … but you also want to see who the guys are."

The Cowboys liked what they saw from the 6-2, 202-pound corner, who legitimately when healthy can run sub 4.5 in the 40. Scott said while working out at EXO training facility in Arizona while preparing for the draft that he ran a 4.42 five days before he pulled up lame at his Pro Day.

This should bring some clarity as to why the Cowboys invested next year's fifth to jump to the top of the sixth round, not only knowing Scott's story and journey but also realizing a guy like this certainly wasn't going to last another 34 picks in the sixth round. And they can only hope this pick turns out as well as some other secondary late-rounders in recent years, such as Anthony Brown (6th in 2016), Donovan Wilson (6th in 2019) and DaRon Bland (5th in 2022).

But this also explains Scott's overflowing emotions after sitting there watching the draft all day Thursday and Friday and into the late afternoon on Saturday, knowing not only was he running out of rounds, but also the journey he's been on to get to this point.

"I was laying on the floor with a cover over my head in my mom and dad's room," Scott says. "They were on the bed, and I'm in the front of the bed just staring at the TV waiting on a phone call, and it finally came. I just jumped up off the floor and tears immediately started coming to my eyes. I was trying to hold it in, but I couldn't.

"It's just a blessing. It's really surreal to be watching and waiting for the last six years for an opportunity like this and for it to finally come in the way that it did. I'm just truly blessed to even be here."

Yeah, something to this pick, right, worth betting on for sure.

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