By LARRY VAUGHT
Eric Scott came to the University of Kentucky from Georgia to play tight end, catch touchdown passes and prepare for a career in the National Football League. He knew he liked UK and the football program, but he never thought of Kentucky being a life-time destination for him.
Yet that is what happened. Scott had a successful UK career from 2003-2007 even if he did have to move from tight end to center. He played in the NFL but only for two years due to injuries. He came back to UK to complete his master’s degree and went to a career fair where he ran into Kevin Franklin, a captain on the UK police force who had accompanied the UK football team on road trips when Scott was a player. Scott knew he would eventually be miserable with a job working full-time in an office. Franklin told him the UK police force had openings and he would be able to pay for his education as a UK employee.
“I had no intentions of getting into police work,” said Scott. “I was supposed to be playing 20 years in the NFL. But after injuries and surgeries, I ended up back at UK and just by coincidence ran into the UK police office who traveled with the team. He helped sign me up and I fell in love with police work.”
Within a year, the 6-4, 280-pound Scott was the UK police officer traveling with the UK football team to provide security for coach Rich Brooks and later coaches Joker Phillips and Mark Stoops. He also went on basketball trips with coach John Calipari from 2009 to 2016.
“I saw an operational side of things I had never seen as a player,’ Scott said. “I learned there was a huge operation to every game.”
Now Scott is running his own operation. He recently became police chief in Berea
“The mayor and former police chief have been great to me,” Scott said. “When I first came to Lexington, I thought it was small. Then I realized it was one of the bigger cities in Kentucky. Berea is small but is a very passionate town. It’s smaller than Lexington obviously but is not a slow town. People are super passionate about what we do. Lexington has a huge university and ever changing population. Here I see the same people every day and that makes it easier to earn their trust because they know us and we know who they are.”
Scott, who has three daughters ranging in age from 8 to 17, hopes former teammates will stop by Berea to see him. He also would not mind adding ex-UK athletes to the Berea police department.
“Athletes are some of the best employees you could ever have,” Scott said.
Scott certainly was the good “employee” on the UK football team when Brooks and Phillips, then the UK offensive coordinator, suggested he move from tight end to center. He said the coaches told him with the tight ends on the roster, including future all-SEC and nine year NFL veteran Jacob Tamme, it would be easier for Scott to bulk up to 290 pounds to play center rather than drop to 230 to get more speed to stay at tight end.
The coaches put him in touch with Dermontti Dawson, who made the switch from fullback to center at UK and became an All-Pro center and Hall of Famer with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“My senior year I transitioned to center and that’s the reason I got the opportunity to play in the NFL,” Scott said. “Now I fought the move. Don’t get me wrong. Rich Brooks is a man I admire and trust more than anything. He’s been a lifelong mentor but I knew there was no way to show off for my girlfriend playing center.”
Kentucky teammate Wesley Woodyard helped convince Scott to make the move and once he did, he had no regrets.
“Becoming a lineman changed me. It taught me how to become selfless and sacrifice for others,” the Berea police chief said. “I never expected anything in return. I didn’t jump up and down over making the move but it was great for me.”
Scott insists he still “bleeds blue” even though he doesn’t always get to watch UK play now because of his daughters’ athletics schedules. However, he’s seen enough this year to be proud of what Kentucky has done after having starting quarterback Terry Wilson go down with a season-ending knee injury in game two.
“Everyone should realize how important the quarterback is. Football is a 365-day sport. Losing your quarterback that early is like getting to page 80 of a report and accidentally deleting it and having to start over to get that report done in a hurry now,” Scott said. “That’s what happens when you lose your quarterback.
“Kentucky is a team that has grown talent-wise more than I could ever have imagined when I was there. Then we had a bunch of two-and three-star guys trying to win seven or eight games. These guys can make mistakes and still win seven. It shows the great work the coaches have done and I am so happy with all I have seen. I am excited to see where this program continues to go.
“I will forever be indebted to UK athletics for taking an 18-year-old kid from Atlanta and turning him into a man. The coaches and (athletics director) Mitch Barnhart helped me grow and get to where I am today.”