Most of the things Tom Scott holds precious came from football. It opened the doors of opportunity but, more importantly, provided lessons in life that gave him inspiration and strength to draw on when he was backed up against his own goal line. The death of his first wife, parental problems that come with raising children and then being told he had cancer.
But Tom Scott is more than a survivor; he's a winner. First it was Calvert Hall, then the University of Virginia, first team All-American, 12 years as an end/linebacker in the National Football League and, ultimately, election to the College Football Hall of Fame.
On Saturday afternoon, Scott returns to Calvert Hall, where it all started. He wore the same jersey number, 82, in high school, college and pro. It will be retired at halftime of the game with Perry Hall as former teammates and alumni crowd around to cheer his presence.
Scott, who owns and operates an insurance firm with offices in Wilton, Conn., is eternally grateful to Calvert Hall. "My mother sent me there for a little more discipline than I was getting in the public schools," he said. "I was and am an Episcopalian but the Christian Brothers treated me wonderfully. They gave a little rap once in a while if you needed it. From them, I got a great education and values I've carried for the rest of my life."
Graduating from Calvert Hall, it was expected Scott would accept a scholarship to Notre Dame. He went there for a visit but "became discouraged when they kept asking me my name" and headed home. But he wasn't off the train in Baltimore 10 minutes when Bill Meek, who recruited for Maryland, was at his house, followed by coach Art Guepe of Virginia.
He decided on Virginia and was encouraged in that direction by Nelson Offutt, an alumnus who lived in Baltimore. Scott made All-America, played in the East-West Shrine Game and then for the College All-Stars. He had been drafted by the Los Angeles Rams in 1953 but was told he was being "loaned" to the Philadelphia Eagles, who needed a defensive end.
Tom assumed he'd be going back to Los Angeles but the Eagles insisted no such agreement existed so he remained an Eagle until 1959, when he was dealt to the New York Giants and played in three championship games, including a homecoming against the Baltimore Colts.
He enjoys talking about the way the league operated in an era when players knew the commissioner on a first-name basis and got not only his attention but support. "I ran into the commissioner, Bert Bell, after having my best season and said, 'Bert, what did I have to do to make the Pro Bowl?' The commissioner listened and the next two years I was in the Pro Bowl."
Scott was highly respected, personally and professionally in the NFL, and when he started Scott Associates in New York, mainly representing Massachusetts Mutual, the Mara family, owners of the Giants, remained his good friends. He played an important role when he recommended George Young, a teammate at Calvert Hall, years removed, as general manager.
"His success hasn't surprised anyone," Tom said. "He keeps the NFL in perspective. That's just his way. Education is the most important thing to George, who is the godfather of one of my sons. We talk often. I'm so extremely elated over what he has done."
It was a year ago when Scott was told a tumor on his neck was cancerous. He underwent surgery, took the post-operative treatments and the progress has been outstanding. "There were times when I could have given up on myself but I wouldn't do that. I honestly believe the lessons football taught, never to bail out, regardless of the circumstances, served me well, as it has during all the other crises I've been faced with."
Scott's second wife has been a momentous comfort and help. His children have matured and accepted responsibility, which makes him happy. Tom Scott comes home to Baltimore, to Calvert Hall, to fittingly become the first former football player, at a school that is well over a century old, to have his jersey number retired.
He says he could never repay Calvert Hall for what it contributed to the making of first a student and then a citizen. Calvert Hall, in turn, feels he has brought his long-ago alma mater a distinction it truly treasures. First an All-American, longevity in the NFL and then entry into the College Football Hall of Fame.