The University at Buffalo held its spring game Saturday in weather that felt more like early winter. But Trevor Scott couldn't have cared less.
Eighteen months ago, the rising senior defensive end could barely walk, let alone play football. So a little chill in the air wasn't going to spoil his fun.
"I'm having a great time out here," he said after the Blue team's 51-32 win over his White team in UB Stadium. "After what I've been through, it feels good to be able to play football."
On Oct. 29, 2005, Scott was playing tight end for the Bulls against Ohio. While blocking a defensive end in the third quarter, he got kneed in the back by an Ohio linebacker. Everything from his waist down went numb. The feeling came back a couple of seconds later, but he started getting shooting pains down his leg.
It was initially thought to be a deep muscle bruise, but he was still in excruciating pain a few days later.
"It was scary," Scott said. "We weren't sure what the problem was."
He soon found out. A magnetic resonance imaging exam and CAT scan revealed he had two broken bones in his back.
The injury was so disabling the easiest tasks were virtually impossible.
"I had trouble putting on my socks and shoes. I had to have help getting up or sitting down. I couldn't sleep laying down flat," Scott said. "It was an experience. But it also made me more motivated to come back out here."
Doctors told him he couldn't do anything for eight to 10 weeks. They also couldn't guarantee he would play football again. But Scott had other ideas.
"There was never a doubt that I would come back," he said. "I was hurting, but not being able to compete with the guys hurt more. I'm not the type of guy who sits around and watches other people do stuff. I like to be running around."
Scott was up and running last spring and by the start of the 2006 season he was not only playing in games, but making his presence felt in them.
In his first year at defensive end, he had nine sacks, the most by a UB player during its Division I-A history. He also had 45 tackles, including a team-high 13 1/2 for 75 yards in losses.
"I was real happy the way things went," said Scott, who excelled as a linebacker at Potsdam (N.Y.) High School. "Some of the plays just went my way. I was excited to be on the defensive side of the ball. I have more of a defensive mentality. Now that I have a year under my belt at defensive end, there's no real hesitation. I can just turn it loose and run."
Scott has continued to impress UB coach Turner Gill, who said Scott has been one of the most outstanding players this spring.
Scott played only in the first half of Saturday's game, but he showed off his pass-rushing skills by ending two offensive drives by batting down a pass and recording a "touch" sack during the second defensive series.
"I've seen him really improve in his game," Gill said. "He only played one year at defensive end and now he feels more comfortable."
Gill believes the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Scott could be one of the top defensive players in the Mid-American Conference in 2007. He's a good pass rusher who gets off the ball with exceptional quickness and has outstanding speed off the edge (he ran a 4.63-second 40-yard dash at UB's pro day). As a run defender, he plays with good leverage and is using his hands better to get off blocks.
"When you can get off the ball with the quickness Trevor has, that causes some issues with offensive linemen," Gill said. "He's still learning. It's only his second year playing defensive end. But he's made tremendous strides in learning the position."
It will take a lot of talent for Gill to build a competitive program at UB. But he also needs players with character as well as skill.
Scott has both, according to Gill.
"Trevor is the model of who and what we want at the University at Buffalo as a football player," Gill said. "And not just football skills. I'm talking about academically and handling yourself off the field. He's overcome adversity because he has that inner drive and passion to compete. When you talk about effort, I just put him up as an example. He defines what our expectations are."
Scott hopes this spring will be a springboard to better things in the fall. The Bulls have another daunting schedule, beginning with Baylor in the home opener and followed by non-conference road trips to Syracuse, Rutgers and Penn State.
But Scott is approaching the upcoming season the way he dealt with his back injury.
"You have to take on challenges head on," said Scott, a team captain for the second straight year. "If we compete and keep fighting, good things can happen."