Eric Scott will be eternally grateful to Jay Norvell and the Nevada football program, but he could not turn down the chance to become a college coordinator, the former Wolf Pack wide receivers coach told Nevada Sports Net on Monday.
Scott is leaving Nevada for Mountain West rival San Jose State, as first reported by Football Scoop, where he'll serve as the Spartans' wide receiver coaches and co-offensive coordinator. Scott said the opportunity to become a coordinator was too good to pass up.
"In this business, it's very hard for a minority, especially on offense, to move up," Scott told Nevada Sports Net. "With this opportunity, I think it helps me and helps my career off a little bit. I eventually want to become an offensive coordinator as well as a head coach. You need to have the titles and the know-how to do those things. I think it's a good deal that helps with the advancement of my career."
Scott, who turns 46 on Thursday, was one of three remaining assistants on Norvell's original coaching staff hired in 2017, the others being offensive coordinator Matt Mumme and tight ends coach Timmy Chang. Scott was Nevada's strongest recruiter over the last few seasons. He helped reel in All-MW players like Romeo Doubs, Elijah Cooks, Dom Peterson and Aaron Frost as well as starters Berdale Robins, Daiyan Henley and Tory Horton, among others. His wide receivers have been Nevada's best position group during the Norvell era.
Scott said it was difficult to leave those receivers, which made the decision to change schools agonizing.
"It's probably the hardest decision I've ever made in my life," Scott said. "I love all my boys. I recruited a lot of the team, so Romeo, Elijah, Tory is coming up, Jamaal Bell, all those guys that are coming up are very talented kids. You always want to watch them grow and help them learn and advance, and it's very hard, very emotional for me as well. Even the friendships I made with the coaches and the staff, all the equipment girls. I had a really cool relationship with everybody. This is still emotional for me."
Scott said it was tough to tell his receivers he was leaving one MW program for another but they understood his decision.
"They were both sad and happy for me and proud for me," Scott said. "We shed a few tears together, a couple of us, but all and all they were very happy this was something that advances my career. My players, I share everything with them, even my dreams and aspirations. I try and make it open for everybody in my (receivers) room. I've shared these things with them and this is an opportunity I felt like I couldn't turn down."
Scott has been one of the most important coaches for Nevada during the rebuild orchestrated by Norvell, who has led the Wolf Pack to three straight bowl games, including a 7-2 record last season. Scott's pupils, most notably Doubs and Cooks, have become elite players at Nevada, which Scott said is one of the things he's most proud of during his four years in Reno.
"Just watching all those guys develop," Scott said. "A lot of those guys didn't have a lot of offers. A lot of those guys weren't highly recruited. Helping those guys develop and grow into the players they've become and some of them making all-conference and those things are huge. I know a lot of people aren't religious, but I'm a Bible buff as well and probably one of my biggest achievements with my room is we share and I read the Bible to those guys and those guys have become confident in being able to regurgitate some of that information to trust God and lean on prayer. That really made me proud with my young guys."
Scott came to Nevada after a long tenure as a high school coach in Southern California, which helped him pluck some gems out of the Los Angeles area. Scott, a wide receiver as a player, played at UCLA from 1995-97 after one season at Northwestern. He got his first college job in 2007 as UCLA's receivers coach when Norvell was the Bruins’ offensive coordinator. After one season as a full-time assistant with the Bruins, Scott wasn't retained after a coaching change and spent more than a decade coaching youth football in Los Angeles.
He served as the head coach at Compton Centennial High and then Los Angeles High, where he went 35-7-1 with three city championships in three seasons from 2014-16, revitalizing a long-suffering program, before Nevada hired him. Scott said he's indebted to Norvell for hiring him not once but twice from the high school level.
"Coach Norvell is my brother," Scott said. "I've been knowing Coach Norvell for 15 years. My first coaching job at UCLA was under Coach Norvell. Our relationship, that's my brother. My relationship with him will never end. It's the opportunity for me, and he blessed me with that. There was no ill feelings or ill will. Our relationship goes far beyond football. He's family to me. I've been close to Coach for a long time. Thankful is not even close to how I feel about him. It means the world to me that he gave the opportunity to me and believed in me that I could even get the job done. That speaks volume about how he feels about me."
Scott is the first assistant coach the Nevada football team has lost this offseason. He joins a SJSU program that went 7-1 last year behind a perfect regular season, including a 30-20 win over Nevada for a spot in the MW title game. SJSU won its first MW championship, beating Boise State, before a bowl loss to Ball State. The Spartans finished the season ranked No. 24 nationally. Their head coach, Brent Brennan, also played his college ball as a receiver at UCLA, finishing his career in 1994 (Scott joined the Bruins in 1995).
"Brennan is older than me, but we crossed paths at UCLA," Scott said. "When I was coming into UCLA he was in his senior year, so we've been knowing each other since I played at UCLA. We've been knowing each other for a lot of years. Even my time in high school, he recruited a lot of kids from me."
Scott said SJSU's success last season wasn't a big factor in him taking the job, although it was a nice bonus. Instead, it was the ability to be more involved at the coordinator level.
"I'm a guy that likes challenges," Scott said. "Just being able to create and being able to be a part of the creative process, I'm an avid chess player, and I like the chess match in football. The opportunity to be able to help create and plan and be a part of that process is really big for me. I think it's a plus-plus that they won (the MW) last year because the team does have that instilled in them, a winning attitude. The hardest thing to do in football is win a championship, from Pop Warner to high school up. Those accomplishments aren't easy. They've done it. That's one thing you don't have to instill in them. They have that attitude, so that should be the only thing they should strive to. I'm looking forward to being able to create and be the creative process."