CINCINNATI — Bernard Scott’s draft party in Dallas was getting glum. All the relatives at his aunt’s house were waiting to hear his name called on Sunday, something that was getting less likely as the sixth round of the NFL draft wore down.
Just when the nation’s top Division II player started to think he’d go unpicked, one team overlooked his history of getting into trouble and changing schools.
The team making that call? The Cincinnati Bengals.
The Bengals chose the Abilene Christian running back with a compensatory pick late in the sixth round. The 209th overall pick got that party going in Dallas.
‘‘Man, I was at a loss for words,’’ Scott said on a conference call, talking over the noise of his relatives in the background. ‘‘I still am, kind of. All the stuff I’ve been through and all the hard work, it’s like a dream come true.’’
The Bengals had a history of taking chances on high-risk players. A run of 10 players arrested over a 14-month span beginning in April 2006 forced them to change their approach. They’ve generally avoided risky players in the last two drafts.
When they got to the end of the sixth round, they decided Scott was worth the small risk.
‘‘He had some things in his past back in ’05 and so forth, and has bounced from school to school,’’ coach Marvin Lewis said. ‘‘I really liken him to T.J. (Houshmandzadeh) a little bit. I think at that point in the draft, it was worth the opportunity. He’s kind of gotten his life back together and ready to play football. Wherever this guy has been, he has exceeded and run for a lot of yardage.’’
His big numbers on the field — and his problems off it — made him one of the more intriguing players available in the later rounds.
The 5-foot-10, 200-pound running back has repeatedly faced criminal charges and gotten into fights because he couldn’t control his temper. He didn’t play his senior year at high school in Vernon, Texas, after getting into a fight.
His college career has bounced around. He went to Southeastern Oklahoma, then transferred to Central Arkansas. He was kicked off the team there for allegedly hitting a coach during an on-field fight in the spring of 2005.
‘‘That’s not true,’’ he said, repeating what he told the Bengals during predraft interviews. ‘‘I got into it with one of my teammates there in practice. A fight broke out. I felt somebody grab me from behind, and I just kind of turned around and pushed their hands away without realizing it was a coach. But I didn’t strike a coach or hit a coach at all.’’
Once, he was charged with giving false information to a police officer — ‘‘I showed my brother’s identification.’’ He also was accused of stealing an iPod, and continuing to drive when an officer tried to stop his vehicle last summer.
By that time, he had moved on to Blinn Junior College and then to Abilene Christian, where he became one of the top offensive players in Division II. He set NCAA Division II records with 39 touchdowns and 234 points in 2007. Last season, he ran for 2,156 yards and 28 touchdowns, winning the Harlon Hill Trophy as the top player in the small-school division. He led Abilene Christian to an 11-1 record and had six 200-yard rushing games.
The Bengals needed depth at running back and decided to consider Scott after questioning him about his problems.
‘‘He’s not a bad, bad guy,’’ running backs coach Jim Anderson said. ‘‘I feel comfortable with him. And I expect him to come in here and be a heck of a citizen and be a heck of a football player and be really productive for us in years to come.’’
Scott said he has learned to control his temper better and to stay away from places where he could get into trouble. As the draft wound down Sunday and he hadn’t been picked, he was reminded of how much his problems had hurt him.
‘‘That came to my mind,’’ he said. ‘‘I thought about that just because of my past, all the stuff from my record was going to scare a lot of teams away. I also had a feeling that I was going to get the shot to play.’’
The Bengals gave it to him.
‘‘Give the kid a chance,’’ Anderson said. ‘‘That’s the American way, to give someone a chance. Let him come in and do what he can do.’’
BEREA — Whether they’re any better remains to be seen. The Cleveland Browns definitely got brighter in the NFL draft.... read more