ELKTON — On a bright Saturday, Elkton High School hosted the second installment of the Niles Scott Youth Football Camp. Named after Elkton High School alumnus Niles Scott, who is entering his fourth year in the NFL as a member of the Las Vegas Raiders, the one-day camp brought young football players to Elkton’s football field for all-round skillwork.
“It’s a blessing,” said Scott, a 2014 graduate from Elkton. “Any day I can get out here and give back is a blessing.”
As a light breeze banished the weeklong heatwave, 93 athletes from 3rd-9th grade turned out for the camp after a year-long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event saw a number of sponsors, both local and national, with the NFL and the Raiders supplying gear to the campers, Dick’s Sporting Goods providing goodie bags, and Pizza Hut supplying the hungry campers with much-needed calories. Members of Elkton High School’s football team and coaching staff assisted Scott in organizing the camp and running drills for the campers.
Campers were divided into groups by age, rather than position, and run through drills that focused on the fundamentals of football. When asked, Scott said that he wants the campers to learn the skills that make up the entire game of football, rather than only the skills of one position.
“You don’t want kids thinking that they’re only that position that their coach has them play,” said Scott, himself a nose tackle for the Raiders. “They can play any given position.”
To that end, campers, many of whom wore red camp shirts with #69 on the back (Scott’s jersey number as a member of the 2018-2019 Cincinatti Bengals), could be seen doing everything from blocking and tackling drills to running back and receiver skillwork, regardless of their size or height.
Scott’s feelings on developing well-rounded players were echoed by his former coach.
“Do wide receivers block?” Matt Feeney, head coach of Elkton’s football team, asked the campers. “Yeah. We’ve got to do all parts of the game.”
Scott previously hosted a camp in Elkton in 2019 and had intended to host another in 2020, before the pandemic put a wrench in his plans. According to Scott’s agent, Cecil County residents can expect to see Scott make annual returns to the county to host the camp for a long time.
“As long as he’s in the league he’ll be doing this,” said Alex Guminski of PRO ZONE, who has worked as Scott’s agent since he entered the NFL. “Probably even after he’s done [his NFL career].”
For Scott, the chance to run the camp is a chance to give young Cecil County athletes opportunities that he never had. Particularly the chance to watch and learn from an athlete performing at their sport’s highest level.
“They can relate to me because I came from here,” said Scott. “I can let them know that anything is possible.”
Scott spoke about his days as a member of Elkton’s football team, and the long hours of traveling to and from camps outside the county in search of the chance to get exposure in front of college coaches. Scott’s hope is that the camp will allow the next generation of Cecil County athletes to learn from his own path and help them on their own.
“Football teaches you structure,” Scott said. “Whether that be for a job or for football or anything.”
As any athlete knows, structure is important both in sports and in life. Especially in the face of adversity, which Scott is no stranger to. After graduating from Elkton, Scott played four years of Division III football at Frostburg State University in Frostburg, Maryland, where he was named a Division III First Team All-American.
After the completion of his NCAA career, Scott entered the NFL — a rarity for a Division III player — and spent time on the practice squads of the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos. In 2018, Scott broke out and played in 6 games for the Cincinnati Bengals before being sidelined with a Lisfranc injury in 2019.
Despite his setbacks, Scott remains optimistic and cheerful. At the camp, he could be seen jogging around the field giving feedback and encouragement to campers, as well as taking photos and giving autographs to the parents sitting along the edges of the field. He took care to remember who he had promised to speak with or take a photo with even when his duties called him onto the field.
Feeney, Scott’s coach during his time at Elkton High School, said the experience of having a former-player-turned-NFL-player running the camp was no different than when Scott was on Elkton’s roster.
“It’s Niles,” said Feeney. “He’s still Niles Scott. A young man that’s humble, always upbeat, always working.”
Feeney noted that Scott had come into one of the Elkton team’s practices and weight room sessions the day before to work with the high school athletes.
“It’s just like having him back on the team,” Feeney chuckled. “I still tell him ‘Niles keep your knees up.’”
At the end of the month, Scott will be reporting for training camp for his second season with the Raiders — who recently cut their backup nose tackle, who was Scott’s chief competition for a permanent spot on the roster.
“I think he’s got a really good chance to make the roster,” said Guminski. “He’s fast, he’s as strong as he’s ever been.”
As Scott took care to spend time with each group of campers, his former coach noted the inspiration that Scott’s work ethic and passion provide to young athletes.
“I stress to these guys that he’s an example of how to follow your dream,” said Feeney.