A few weeks ago, Trevor Scott went to his alma mater and told the football players at Potsdam High School how he made it to the National Football League.
But Scott, a linebacker with the Oakland Raiders, didn't tell the current Sandstoners he was in the NFL because of his height (6-feet, 5-inches) or because of his speed.
Scott credited the small weight room at the school for helping him to the highest level of football. He gained 45 pounds of muscle during his first three years of high school. Scott told the players that hard work goes a long way.
"He's fulfilled his dream and he sacrificed a lot of stuff to get there," said Potsdam coach Jim Kirka, who also coached Scott when he was a high school athlete. "The NFL is so rare, you don't envision anybody making it that far. He's got a work ethic that's second-to-none. He was going to do everything in his power to put himself in that position."
When Scott was playing high school sports an NFL dream was unrealistic. Potsdam's most famous professional athlete was a hockey player, former Clarkson All-American Craig Conroy.
But now Scott and Gouverneur's Brian Leonard, a running back with the Cincinnati Bengals, give area kids a place to look to for inspiration. All they need to do is turn on their TV on Sunday.
"I guess it means a lot, I would hope so anyway," Scott said. "I'm from Potsdam, (Leonard) is from Gouverneur and we made it out of here in a big way. Hopefully, kids can see that and think it's not impossible."
Scott's work ethic helped in more than just football. With little experience in the sport he turned himself into one of the top centers in Section 10 basketball and helped lead Potsdam to the state semifinals. He was a standout in outdoor track and field as well, winning a medal in the discus as a senior at the state meet. Scott was the Section 10 champion in the 200-meter dash, high jump, shot put and discus.
"He was very dedicated and hard-working," said his former track coach, Tony Vaccaro. "He got involved in weight training in the bigger, faster, stronger program and stuck with it. It takes a lot of dedication to get to a weight room on your own and be consistent."
Scott's first hurdle was getting a spot on an NCAA Division I football team and Potsdam athletic officials Joe Stark and Mike Laconti helped get videos and information about him to enough coaches where he was able to land a spot with the University at Buffalo.
After redshirting his first year at Buffalo, Scott spent three years as a tight end before his career was changed for good by a new coach, Turner Gill, who now runs the Kansas program.
Scott was moved to defensive end and it was there that he impressed enough pro scouts with his size and athletic ability to get drafted.
The Raiders took Scott in the sixth round with the 169th overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft and his lifelong dream was nearly complete.
Scott won a spot on the roster in training camp and put up solid numbers as a rookie, including five sacks and 10 tackles in 16 games. His first professional sack came against future Hall of Famer Brett Favre.
"My most memorable experience is probably the first sack I got, on Brett Favre," Scott said. "Just to get your first sack to put you over the hump gave you the confidence to let you know you can play in this league. In the first year you are all over the place, you don't know what to expect. Everything is working against you. That kind of helped settle me down a little bit."
Also helping Scott was former teammate Kalimba Edwards.
"He was a defensive end with us and my roommate my rookie year," Scott said. "He showed me the way. He was a great role model for me. He taught me the game, the do's and don'ts. I wish he was still with us, but he's not."
Last year brought another big change for Scott. He was slated to start as a defensive end until the Raiders picked up former New England Patriots standout Richard Seymour just before the first game of the season.
Scott wound up moving to outside linebacker and finished with 33 tackles and seven sacks in 16 games.
"I love what I'm doing now," Scott said. "Playing linebacker enabled me to get in on tackles. I do a lot of different stuff and it's a lot of fun. Third down is the money down and you get to go rush the quarterback. You get a sack after that and it's all worth it. Defensive end is way more tiring. You are fighting with 320- or 330-pound offensive linemen on every play and you have to go rush. I'm just running now. It's not as tiring. It gives you a little more gas for third downs."
Scott has also adapted well to his new work home, living in Oakland but touring the Bay area in his free time.
"You want great places to eat or go out, you go to San Francisco," Scott said. "You can pretty much do anything in San Francisco. It's a great time there. I love the (Raiders) organization. I love everything that everyone says about us. It lights my fire up a little bit. I haven't loved the fact that we haven't been successful the past couple years. But we have key pieces to that puzzle in place now. Overall, I'm having a great time out there."
As his visit home this summer showed, Scott has not forgotten his roots. He worked at Leonard's camp at St. Lawrence University. And he has one other message for those still competing at the high school level: enjoy your time in school.
"The most fun I ever had playing football was probably in high school," Scott said. "There's not a care in the world, nobody worries about getting cut. You wear your jerseys to school on Fridays before home games. You are just always around the guys. As you get older, in the NFL, everybody's got families, kids, wives. After practice everyone's not looking to hang out with each other, they want to go see their families. Come Sundays, though, we're definitely all together."