Scott finishes season of success at AM

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 14, 2005

It’s safe to say running back Ta’mar “Tank” Scott and the Alabama A&M Bulldogs didn’t finish the 2005 season on the high note they would have liked.

In the SWAC championship game last Saturday at Legion field, the Bulldogs fell 44-6 to Grambling St., A&M’s second blowout loss to the Tigers from Louisiana on the season. But despite the pain of finishing runner-up in the SWAC, Scott’s junior season remains one he says he’ll look back on fondly.

“It was a good season,” he said Tuesday, having returned to Demopolis for A&M’s Christmas break. “We weren’t expected to do the things we did. We’d been picked third in our division and ended up winning eight of our last nine games. We wish it had ended differently, but we fought hard together…You win some, you lose some. Our season was a success.”

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Like his Bulldogs team, Scott’s 2005 success story was also unexpected. The Demopolis native and John Essex graduate finished the season with 557 yards and four touchdowns on 109 carries, a 5.1 yard-per-carry average. But entering fall two-a-days, Scott wasn’t sure he’d carry the ball once.

“Before the season, I wanted to get moved to defense,” he says. “I’d had a bad spring. I was fourth on the depth chart.”

An iffy spring training was only the most recent in a series of setbacks that had plagued Scott since his arrival at A&M following a stellar career for Alphus Shipman’s Hornets. Under the NCAA’s Proposition 48 rule Scott was academically ineligible his initial season, and a lackluster work ethic in the classroom that year (“I can be honest about it,” he says. “I messed around”) cost him a second season of eligibility as well.

“It was tough. I wouldn’t want to wish it on anyone else,” Scott says. “I had a long talk with Dad and my coaches, and they told me to stick with it, keep fighting, and everything would fall into place.”

But it would still be Scott’s fourth season before everything aligned for good. As a sophomore he became eligible and saw his first on-field action, and even made a critical 60-yard run in a win over Jackson St. But an injury robbed Scott of six games and after spring practice, he was buried on the depth chart again.

By the time fall practice rolled around, though, one of the backs ahead of Scott was declared ineligible. A second was injured and suddenly starter Nic Luke was the only back ahead of Scott on the Bulldogs pecking order.

“When I got moved up to second string, the coaches told me, ‘You’ve got to step up,'” he says. “I just made the best I could of the opportunity they gave me.”

After a slow start to the season, Scott saw more and more of the field and was eventually taking hand-offs in the year-in-year-out biggest game of the A&M season: the Magic City Classic against archrival Alabama St., held annually at Legion Field.

The Bulldogs fell behind 16-0 early, but with the help of a 16-yard Scott touchdown run late in the first half A&M stormed back to win the game 31-28. Scott finished with 76 yards, a touchdown, and a two-point conversion on 12 carries–according to him, “the best game I’ve played in my life.”

“Once the ball started rolling, that was it,” he says. “Luckily, I was able to score a touchdown and help my team … It was mind-blowing. I saw my Dad after the game and told him he had to pinch me. It didn’t feel real. It was overwhelming…the best feeling of my life.”

After graduation, Scott hopes to return to the Demopolis area to begin a coaching career–that is, if professional football doesn’t come calling first. Before that, though, there’s still that excitement from the Magic City Classic and the entire 2005 season to build on.

“Hopefully next year,” he says, “will be even sweeter.”