Artavis Scott’s grueling journey from Clemson stardom to Chargers may finally pay off
Artavis Scott went from the biggest stage in college football to being left out in the NFL.
Scott, in his third year with the Chargers, spent 2017 on the practice squad and missed 2018 because of an ankle injury suffered in the waning moments of the preseason.
Before that? He was the all-time leader in career receptions at Clemson, his final game with the Tigers coming in the College Football Championship, a 35-31 victory over Alabama, a stunning outcome that Sports Illustrated this week named the sixth-greatest game in 150 years of college football.
That was Jan. 9, 2017. Scott is 31 months removed from playing in a contest that actually counts.
“It never would have crossed my mind that it would take me into my third year before I’d play again,” he said. “But everything happens for a reason. God doesn’t make mistakes. I’ll be good.”
This training camp is again vital for Scott, who is competing for a job at wide receiver. His ability to also return kicks could help his chances of providing depth behind Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.
A year ago, Scott appeared to be in position to make the Week 1 roster before he was hurt in the preseason finale against San Francisco. Before that, he had caught eight passes for 82 yards and returned four kickoffs and four punts in a notably productive August.
The Los Angeles Chargers want to build off last year’s promising campaign, but the team isn’t about to make any bold predictions on how the season will go.
“I wasn’t oblivious to what was going on,” Scott said of measuring his chances. “But you just never know. I was thinking, ‘Let’s finish this game strong and see what happens.’ And then, boom!”
Though the injury was significant enough to require surgery, Scott found himself down on the Levi’s Stadium turf rooting for a miracle.
“When it happened, I was like, ‘OK, this is gonna be a little ankle sprain. I’ll get some treatment and go,’ ” he recalled. “When they told me [how bad it was], I still tried to think of a way to come back. Maybe tape it up more or something.”
Scott’s game is built on quickness and speed, and the doctors explained to him that surgery was the best option if he wanted to regain both.
The Chargers are in need of another wide receiver this season after Tyrell Williams departed for Oakland via free agency. Williams was their top deep threat last year, his 15.9 yards per catch ranking 11th in the NFL.
With running back Melvin Gordon still out because of a contract dispute, the Chargers’ offense is not operating with its expected collection of weapons. Should Gordon’s holdout extend into the season, they could use another threat.
Scott’s skill set would seem to make him a prime candidate to seize the opportunity. He is, however, only 5 feet 11 (five inches shorter than Tyrell Williams) and 195 pounds.
That size no doubt contributed to Scott going undrafted out of college, despite his record-setting career, before he signed with the Chargers as a free agent.
“He’s a very quick, confident receiver,” said Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers’ backup quarterback. “He’s strong with his hands. He’s making plays day after day, and we’re going to need him to continue to do that and stay healthy.”
Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said Scott making plays is nothing new. He noted that the receiver has done so the past two preseasons and throughout the offseason programs since his arrival.
Plays in the summer are great, sure, but the NFL doesn’t get serious until the fall.
“He hasn’t always stayed healthy the whole way through camp, which has hurt him,” Whisenhunt said. “That’s the big thing for him, his availability. One of the things in this league is that you have to be available.
Jerry Tillery, the Chargers’ first-round draft pick, took another step in his return from shoulder surgery by participating in pads for the first time.
“He has worked hard in the offseason to try to make sure that he’s in good shape because we’re going to get a chance to see him do some things in the preseason that will give us a great indication of what he can do for us in the regular season.”
Scott’s first chance to make another promising impression passed Thursday without much acclaim. He had one reception for three yards in the Chargers’ 17-13 preseason-opening loss at Arizona. He also fielded two punts with no returns.
The coaches have a good idea of what Scott can provide when he’s healthy. But, over the remaining three preseason games, they’re going to want to see more from him.
“I feel like I can do whatever I’m asked,” Scott said. “I just come out here, learn the concept of our offense and enjoy the moment. I feel like I don’t stereotype myself, ‘I’m this or that.’ I just go out there, play and do what I have to do.”
For someone with zero official NFL snaps, Scott has experienced plenty of football the last two years. He also can look to Adrian Phillips, another undrafted free agent, for hope. Phillips emerged as an All-Pro on special teams last season, three years after he spent time on the Chargers’ practice squad.
“You have to be uncomfortable,” Scott said, referring to his desire to finally make his NFL debut. “You get comfortable, you have to go. I am never comfortable. I feel like it’s confidence.”
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