Nick Scott ’19 still speaks with a sense of awe.
THON will do that, giving you a feeling of wonder that perhaps you can’t find anywhere else.
Scott knows that as well as anyone.
If you ever saw him on the football field, or anywhere on campus, chances are Scott was smiling. That was one of the things that stood out about him. Clearly, he loved playing football, and enjoyed being a student-athlete at Penn State.
For most people, that’d be enough. Not for Scott, though. Motivated by the football team’s annual trip to the Penn State Children’s Hospital in Hershey, Scott wanted to get involved with THON, the world’s largest student-run philanthropy. The annual event at the Bryce Jordan Center is the culmination of a year-round fundraising effort to fight pediatric cancer through research and awareness.
Scott danced at THON in 2018, along with teammate Charlie Shuman ’18, ’19g, saying the team’s trip to Hershey was a huge reason why he got involved. It was in Hershey where Scott first learned what Four Diamonds families go through and the sacrifices they make. He spent time with children going through strenuous battles and listened to their inspiring stories.
Seeing that on the forefront, as he described it, left an impression.
“That was one of my favorite times of the year,” he said last week. “In terms of college kids, we think we go through so much, but in retrospect, it’s nothing compared to what some people go through every day of their lives. Being able to meet people and hear their stories, it motivated me to want to do more to help others with all they may be going through.”
Scott is on the other side of the country now, pursuing a professional football career after the Los Angeles Rams selected him in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft. He talked about his time with THON after a morning workout, saying what he remembers most about dancing is how much of an emotional experience it was.
“You start thinking about how young these kids are and all the things that they go through on a day-to-day basis, yearly basis, and just the strength of the families and the support system they have,” he said. “It creates an extremely high sense of community and love for one another. It just puts things in perspective.”
Scott knows a little something about perseverance, too, albeit in a little different way.
He arrived at Penn State as a running back, and then shifted to the defensive backfield during Saquon Barkley’s highlight-fueled freshman season — Scott once endearingly said, “I tell people all the time, there’s 26 reasons I moved to safety.”
Scott emerged as a standout in the secondary for Penn State, excelling on special teams, too, and earning distinction as a team captain. He was a leader in multiple ways, humble and eager to contribute any way he could. Some players might’ve been stubborn and not wanted to switch positions, for example, while Scott turned the situation into a positive on his way to the NFL.
He scooped a fumble and scored a touchdown against Indiana in 2017 when the Hoosier returner botched a punt, a good example of how Scott always seemed prepared to make a play when called upon. He also sealed a win against Wisconsin a year later with a last-minute interception.
Looking back on this past season for Penn State, Scott jokingly recalled watching the team’s season opener and sounding astonished that the team kept playing — “I was watching the TV, and thought, ‘Dang, even though I left, they still really do go on without you.’”
It was a weird feeling for Scott, who added, “I feel a huge amount of pride for the guys, I know how hard they work, day in and day out,” rattling off a long list of former teammates and defensive backfield mates, including Journey Brown, KJ Hamler, Garrett Taylor, Jonathan Sutherland, Lamont Wade, and others.
“I always look forward to supporting those guys and watching them play,” Scott said. “I think Penn State fans and alumni and lettermen can be excited for what’s in store with Coach Franklin at the helm the next couple of years. We were good this year, but I think this coming season, we can have even more young talent that’ll be old. So, I’m really looking forward to what we got in the future.”
As Scott alluded to, he’s still very much connected to Penn State. That’ll continue next month, when he attends The Hope Gala, an annual THON fundraiser founded by the Alumni Association’s New York City Chapter. Both he and Shuman will be there, with Todd Blackledge ’83 emceeing the event on March 21 at Gotham Hall.
Tickets can be purchased online and include dinner, dancing, and a silent auction.
It’s not surprising that Scott continues to make time for Penn State, and specifically for THON. He was friendly and cordial on the phone, and he spoke with enthusiasm and appreciation for his time in Happy Valley.
“I’m always up for talking some Penn State,” he said, “it takes me back.”
This week, all eyes turn to the BJC.
“It’s really beautiful how so many young people can come together for such a great cause, especially at a time like this, where a lot of people see this generation as so self-centered,” Scott said. “To see kids pouring their hearts out for other families and students and children is pretty amazing. It’s a great feeling, and it definitely enhances the Penn State experience.”