KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Larry Scott has coached football since 2001. Until this season, he’s never done so outside the state of Florida.
A native of Sebring, Fla., Scott coached high school football in Florida for four seasons, at South Florida for eight seasons and three seasons at Miami. Scott joined Tennessee’s staff as tight ends coach in January.
Known as one of the top recruiters in the state of Florida, Scott helped South Florida to a No. 21 ranking in 2009. That’s no small feat considering the Bulls regularly have to butt heads with Florida, Florida State and Miami.
Scott’s main focus has been one of the most talent-rich regions in the nation, Miami-Dade and Broward Counties in South Florida. He’s done quite well there in the past.
The trend seems to be continuing. Scott helped the Vols land two signees just before national signing day in February: athlete Tyler Byrd from Naples (Fla.) High School and receiver Latrell Williams from Columbia High School (Lake City, Fla.).
Byrd said he may have still signed with Tennessee had Scott not joined the Vols. However, Scott’s presence made the decision much easier. Byrd also had scholarship offers from Florida and Miami, but Scott’s personality helped make Tennessee the final choice.
“I think just how open he is,” Byrd said of what makes Scott so likeable. “Him being such a kind and caring person, the way his personal actions are, you couldn’t be a better recruiter.”
If Scott has his way at Tennessee, Byrd and Williams will just be the beginning. Scott doesn’t see being outside the state of Florida as a hinderance to hiring top talent.
“You go in and if the main focus is on building relationships that can withstand no matter where you are, I think no matter shirt you put on or what initial you put on your shirt, those relationships are there,” Scott said. “People feel good about the person that you are and that’s going to give you an opportunity and sell the product you have now.”
While Florida, Florida State and Miami will always be tough to beat, Scott already has an inside track. His cell phone is full of contacts in Florida he can reach out to.
“It’s been the ability to connect on a human element side of it, regardless of football,” said Scott, who has also recruited in North Carolina, New Jersey and Washington, D.C. “It’s still me having an opportunity to build relationships with coaches and people in the community no matter where that is.”
Scott’s personality will be one of his strongest traits he relies on. His energetic, infectious personality is readily apparent on the practice field, in media interviews and in recruiting.
“It comes down to one thing, relationships,” Scott said. “If you’re able to establish a relationship with the kid and all the major players that are going to help him make that decision, it doesn’t matter where your school is.
“If you have a great product to sell and the University of Tennessee does with its football following and its facilities and the people that surround the program and make it what it is makes it special. Once that relationship is there with players and coaches and with the young man, that’s going to give you an opportunity no matter where you are. I still just focus on what’s really important when those kids make a decision and I think that’s relationships.”
Scott also understands what motivates football prospects from South Florida. The area is all about football partly because it’s a way to improve one’s life.
“I think a little bit of it too is the environment and the culture that some of them come up in,” Scott said. “It’s not just South Florida, but all over the country. The great game of football is a way out. That’s what they use as their motivation to keep them out of trouble, to help them understand the direct correlation that I’m very good in the classroom and that I work hard in school and that I try to be a stand-up, model citizen and that I try to do things right (to have success in football).”
It may be a bit much to hope for a Tennessee pipeline into South Florida. However, with Scott on board a steady trickle of signees seems well within reach – and possibly just the beginning.