Football is returning to East Tennessee State, but Carson-Newman should have some Johnson City backers in the coming years.
Science Hill senior O’Ryen Scott announced this week that he’s attending Carson-Newman. He’ll enroll with Hilltoppers teammate Grant Janeway, who signed with the Eagles last month.
Scott is being projected as an outside linebacker. The Eagles plan to play Janeway at middle linebacker.
“There’s a strong possibility we could both be playing at the same time side by side,” Scott said.
Science Hill has produced numerous Carson-Newman players. Running back Van Williams went on to an NFL career in the 1980s. Safety Issac Kinley was an All-South Atlantic Conference selection after helping the Eagles reach the second round of the playoffs as a senior last season.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Scott was an All-Big Eight Conference selection. He had 51 tackles as a senior and caught 20 passes for 239 yards. He scored two touchdowns and caught a two-point conversion pass in 2012, and made an exceptional leaping interception while helping Science Hill build a 34-19 lead in an unforgettable 37-34 loss at Dobyns-Bennett.
Scott’s performance against the Indians probably clinched his offer from Carson-Newman. Eagles assistant coach Mike Turner, who was head coach at Science Hill in the early 1990s, was on the sidelines in Kingsport that night for a battle of 9-0 teams.
“When O’Ryen was on, he was as good as anybody around here,” Science Hill defensive coordinator Ralph Nelson said. “And you know, going back to the D-B week, he just had a phenomenal game. He played out of his mind. … He really played like a dominant player. How he played against D-B was beyond belief.”
Scott might not have gone to Carson-Newman if not for Janeway. Former Hilltopper Jeff Green, a record-setting senior defensive lineman this past season at Charleston University (W.Va.), represented his college program well while hosting Scott on a visit.
But the opportunity to play with Janeway for a legend like Ken Sparks was too good to pass up. Carson-Newman’s facilities also helped sell Scott, who plans to study biology.
The Eagles like the fast, physical Scott’s filling-rattling, pad-popping penchant. Eventually, he wouldn’t mind moving to safety.
“They like my size to where they could add or take away size if need be,” Scott said, “and they like how I like to hit.”
Scott said he ran a 4.6 40 before his junior season and knows he’s faster now.
“His size and strength and speed are unrivaled by a lot of high school athletes,” Nelson said. “And he has a nose for the ball.”
Tackling college alongside a familiar face was appealing for the ’Toppers tandem.
“I think we’re both looking forward to that,” Janeway said. “It’s always easier when you know somebody. I think we’ll have each other to lean on and keep accountable there, and it’ll help out a lot.”
Scott was quick to cite his mother, Sherry, assistant coach Benny Tolley and head coach Stacy Carter when asked about inspirational influences.
“Coach Tolley will get you fired up even on the worst days of practice,” Scott said. “Coach Carter made you do the things that you didn’t want to do, which made the team a lot stronger. Everybody saw that. … Winning nine (straight) games, that was unheard of here at Science Hill.”
Oddly enough, the game which ended the nine-game wins streak is the one Scott most cherishes. He said D-B players such as Tennessee signees Malik Foreman and Devaun Swafford and defensive lineman Trevor Gilliam (Charleston University) commended him on his play after the game.
“It’s the best memory I’ve probably had in my football experience,” Scott said. “Just the atmosphere, it electrified everybody — fans, players, coaches. Whoever wasn’t pumped that game, I don’t see how you weren’t. I felt like that was probably the best game I’ve ever played my entire life and everybody has said that still to this day.”
Scott and Janeway are likely to get more chances to play for conference titles with the tradition-rich Eagles.
“If they go down there and really apply themselves and get in the coaches’ good graces and report in shape,” Nelson said, “I mean, both of those guys are plenty capable of playing down there.”