Bryan Scott, ‘Aaron Rodgers of Division III,’ ready to prove himself worthy of NFL
Bryan Scott knows the importance of timing.
It’s part of his job as quarterback: not only helping him throw accurate passes to receivers, but also delivering them quickly enough so his offensive linemen don’t exert themselves more than they need on a given play.
It’s a simple, effective part of his play style, one achieved through talent and meticulous, years-long practice. But his greatest strength, Scott says, is how he elevates the play of those around him. That’s part of the reason the former Occidental College play-caller — once tabbed the “Aaron Rodgers of Division III” — has his sights set on the NFL.
“My goal is 100 percent to play in the NFL. And to play in the NFL, not just be a roster spot,” Scott told Sporting News. “It’s to play. And I believe in myself.”
Now, he’s waiting for that time when a team will give him that chance.
Scott was once a scrawny, 5-1 freshman at Palos Verdes High School (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.), and only grew a few inches by the time he was a high school junior. But he hit a growth spurt as a senior, springing to 6-1. His height allowed him to compete for the first time for the starting quarterback position. He took full advantage, leading Palos Verdes to an 11-3 season and the 2012 Southern Section California Interscholastic Federation championship — its first such title in 47 years.
That very nearly was the last football season Scott ever played — if not for a chance encounter with his eventual college football coach.
“We won the state championship, and I was good. I was happy with it,” Scott said. “And I played in this all-star game, and my head coach from college (Doug Semones) actually ended up being there.
“And he came up to me and said, ‘Hey would you like to take a trip up to Occidental and visit?’ I said, ‘I don’t know. I’ve never heard of Occidental,’ Scott recalled of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference school. “I went up there and I loved it. I went to their practice. It was kind of fate.”
In just the second game of his freshman season at Occidental, Scott was forced to step in after the starting quarterback was injured. He didn’t flinch under the circumstances: He flourished, earning second-team All-SCIAC selection and the conference’s newcomer of the year award.
Scott considered using his early success at Occidental to transfer to a larger, more visible program. Ultimately, he stayed with the team that gave him a chance.
Scott became a first-team all-conference selection in the 2015 and ’16 seasons, earning the SCIAC Player of the Year in the latter. That season, he also set conference records in career passing yards (9,073), completions (763) and total offense (9,475). He threw 77 touchdowns and 22 interceptions in 33 career collegiate games.
It was during this time that Scott earned the moniker “The Aaron Rodgers of DIII,” which he attributes in part to his quick release, accuracy and ability to extend plays with his feet.
“And I got a little fire in me too, out there on the field.”
Just 11 miles south of Occidental, at USC, Scott participated in the Trojans’ 2017 pro day. By then a respectable 6-2, 220 pounds, he threw to receivers such as future NFL star JuJu Smith-Schuster, completing 62 of 64 passes with one drop. He signed with the BC Lions of the CFL that April, but included a provision in his contract that he would be released if given the opportunity to earn a spot on an NFL roster.
That opportunity came on May 1, 2017, when first-year Rams coach Sean McVay invited Scott to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp.
At the time, Scott said, he was happy to be there. The hometown kid had been passed up in the 2017 NFL Draft and was “just excited to go out there and compete.” His tune changed by the end of camp.
“The biggest thing I took away from that, if I’m being honest, is that I felt like I could for sure play at that level,” Scott said. “I stepped in and it went really well. And to be honest with you, I think it might have shocked the Rams a little bit.”
Scott said the Rams called him the best quarterback at the camp, but an invitation to compete for their final 53-man roster never materialized. Scott turned his attention to The Spring League.
Bart Andrus had never heard of Bryan Scott before the 2018 Spring League in Austin, Texas. Andrus, one of four TSL head coaches in that year’s showcase, just happened to have him as one of his two quarterbacks. (The other was former Titans signal-caller Zach Mettenberger).
By the end of the event, the former Titans quarterbacks coach and CFL head coach considered Scott the best quarterback at the event. That includes Mettenberger and 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. Moreover, Scott had demonstrated everything you want in an NFL quarterback: accuracy, confidence, poise and ability to extend the play.
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“I had Steve McNair through Super Bowl 34. As a head coach in NFL Europe, I had Danny Weurffel and Shaun Hill,” Andrus told SN. “In the UFL I had Troy Smith and Eric Crouch on the same team; both won the Heisman Trophy.
“Bryan is in that class as far as his talent.”
Andrus wasn’t the only TSL head coach who saw the potential in Scott at that event. Steve Fairchild — former Bills running back coach and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach — saw an “NFL-ability arm” on the former DIII player.
“Every time we got in a team setting, he threw the ball well,” Fairchild said. “But a lot of guys throw the ball well. But every time we got into some sort of competitive team setting, his game kind of rose.
“I’ve coached a little bit in the NFL. He could play at that level. He’s that type of talent.”
Scott earned The Spring League MVP honors in 2018, netting him tryouts with the Chiefs and Falcons. Neither workout resulted in anything long-term, so Scott signed a futures contract with the CFL’s then-Edmonton Eskimos in October 2019 for the 2020 season.
Once the league canceled its season because of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Scott opted out of his contract so he could showcase his talents somewhere — anywhere — with the goal of making an NFL team.
Scott again turned to The Spring League, which ironically took place in the fall of 2020. This time the event — which broadcast games on Fox Sports 1 — included six teams, more games and even more notable players. Among them: former Power 5 college football quarterbacks J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Shea Patterson (Michigan) and Alex Hornibrook (Florida State).
No surprise, Scott — whom Andrus drafted first off the board — outperformed all of them. As quarterback for the Generals, he earned the league’s MVP crown a second time. He completed 91 of 133 passes (68.4 percent) for 1,125 yards and 13 touchdowns to one interception. He also led his team to a 4-0 record and the TSL championship.
That led to a workout with the Colts in February, and two more NFL teams Scott declined to name. Now, he is once again waiting for his shot at earning his spot on an NFL roster — and he feels confident his opportunity will come soon.
“I want to show a team what I can do day in and day out,” he said. “I want to show a team my character and what I can bring to their football team and how I can make their football team better. And whoever does sign me is just going to get a winner and a leader.”
Bryan Scott knows the importance of timing.
Perhaps he might have hit his growth spurt earlier in high school. Maybe that would have led to a scholarship offer at a Division I school, where he would be more noticeable and his competition less scrutinized. Or, he simply could have chosen to leave Occidental behind in favor of a larger program.
“Who knows where my life would be right now,” Scott said.
But then, Scott wouldn’t be the same player or person he is today — the one who has had to earn everything. He considers that mentality as much a strength in his relentless pursuit of the NFL as his arm talent or athleticism. And he wants to prove right everyone who has believed in him up to his point: friends, family, coaches and teammates.
That includes those who have worked with him in TSL. Andrus finds it “baffling” that an NFL team hasn’t taken a chance on Scott. Fairchild calls it “mind-boggling.”
Both understand why some in the NFL might hesitate to take a chance on Scott. Division III teams simply don’t produce NFL talents like those in Divisions I or II. Only 10 former Division III players were on NFL rosters in 2020, and none was a quarterback.
And yet, both Andrus and Fairchild consider Scott an “exception to that rule,” someone whose natural talent, competitive nature and leadership qualities supersede all else.
“He sees himself as a starting NFL quarterback” Fairchild said, “and he should. There’s no doubt in my mind.”
Said Andrus: “I think it’s a matter of time before somebody wakes up and says, ‘You know, we better give this guy a chance.’”
That’s all Scott has ever needed.
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