ELKTON — It wasn’t long ago that Elkton’s Niles Scott could be seen chasing quarterbacks and bringing down ball carriers under the soft lights at Elkton High School.
Five years later, after receiving the Cecil Whig’s 2013 All-County Defensive Player of the Year award and going onto college, where he earned All-American honors as a senior defensive tackle for NCAA Division III’s Frostburg State University, the former Golden Elk has struck gold at the highest level.
On Saturday, several minutes after the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft, Scott agreed to terms with the San Francisco 49ers as a rookie free agent, fulfilling his life-long trek toward the professional ranks, a journey that began as a young player in Cecil County’s junior league.
“It’s crazy, you know? I’m blessed and give it all back to the Lord,” Scott said Sunday. “Honestly, I’m ready to go out there and prove myself.”
Scott turned the heads of NFL scouts during an electrifying senior season at Frostburg in which he amassed 16.5 tackles for a loss, 10 sacks and 51 total tackles, earning him a spot on the AP Little All-America First Team, the D3football.com All-America Second Team and the title D3football.com All-East Region Defensive Player of the Year. His campaign resulted in an invitation to play in January’s FBS All Americans Tropical Bowl in Daytona Beach, Fla., and an opportunity to perform at Temple University’s Pro Day on March 19.
The quick, 6-3, 295-pound defender watched the final rounds of the NFL Draft unfold Saturday from his home in Elkton. While several teams expressed interest in Scott pre-draft, he knew where he would sign if he didn’t hear his name called by the end of the seventh round.
“It could have gone 50-50. During the draft, I had my eyes on a couple of teams that were saying they had me on their draft boards,” Scott said. “During the draft, [the 49ers] called me and said they weren’t going to use me for the last pick, but that’s when they offered me the free agent deal. They kept it up front with me.”
Scott shared a brief phone conversation with a 49ers coach following the conclusion of the draft. His advice: “Come ready to work.”
“I chose them because they were the ones who stuck around the longest throughout the process. One of their scouts ran my pro day at Frostburg, and I felt like they were a good fit for me, honestly,” said Scott, who signed a reported three-year deal. “I felt I would fit well in the system and I would have some good competition going out there, going to rookie minicamp and actual camp with them.
“It was a good reaction, a sigh of relief to finally be done the process. Now it’s just getting ready to play football and do what you love doing. It was something you dream about since you’re a little kid. When you’re finally in position to achieve it and it actually happens, it’s kind of surreal.”
The defensive tackle follows in the footsteps of former Elkton graduates Larry Webster, Jr., and his son by the same name, who were both drafted to the NFL. Larry Jr., was selected in the third round of the 1992 draft and won Super Bowl XXXV with the Baltimore Ravens following the 2000 season, while the younger Webster was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 2014 and spent a portion of last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Scott earned Player of the Year honors and a spot in the Maryland Crab Bowl as a senior defensive end in 2013 after finishing with 65 total tackles, including 14 for a loss, 6.5 sacks and a forced fumble he returned for a touchdown.
“It’s wonderful. The whole community was behind Niles all along and we’ve just been rooting for him to get this opportunity. He had a goal and a dream and he wasn’t going to be out-worked reaching it. As someone who actually got to be out on the field with him, it’s not a surprise,” said current Elkton head coach Matt Feeney, who held the position as defensive coordinator with the Golden Elks during Scott’s senior season. “When I think back, he was just a relentless player. He would get after you, get after the football on defense, get after the quarterback. He was just a go-go-go guy, high motor. When you put that in a big, strong body, you’ve got something special.”
Feeney last spoke with his former player and student prior to the Tropical Bowl, but the two have remained in contact via text message. The Elkton head coach wished Scott “good luck” prior to the draft.
“[The 49ers] are going to get a kid who is going to soak up everything. He obviously received some high-level coaching out there at Frostburg that really had a great impact on him and helped him become an All-American,” Feeney said. “When he gets out there with those professionals, I’m sure his game is going to grow even more. He’s not going to get out-worked, and when he gets his opportunity, he’s going to give 100 percent.”
“It’s a huge deal,” he added. “Cecil County, I feel like we don’t get our fair shake, I feel like we’re overlooked… We always take pride when any of our kids are able to take that next step, whether it’s getting to college or now, the professional level. I don’t think it was just Elkton that was pulling for Niles, I think a lot of people from around the county were pulling for him, as well.
“It’s a great talking point for the young guys to say, ‘if you work hard and put in the work, it can happen for you, as well.”
While Scott has earned a spot in the 49ers locker room, the journey to the NFL gridiron has just begun. The defensive tackle will battle a roster of other rookie free agents, drafted players and veterans for a spot on either the 53-man roster or the team’s practice squad.
His upcoming schedule will include participating in both San Francisco’s rookie minicamp later this month and a rookie developmental program. The 49ers will then hold off-season organized team activities in May and June and a mandatory minicamp in June before opening training camp later in the summer.
He hopes to make a roster that has several notable players entrenched on the defensive line, including defensive end DeForest Buckner, a former first-round draft pick.
“It’s going to take everything I have. Everything I have every single day. Constantly showing up to work and ready to do it,” Scott said. “I honestly think that my love for the game and my love being around it and doing the sport will make it a whole lot easier.
“That alone, and having God behind my back and just knowing that I will be giving it my all every single day is going to help me get to that 53-man roster.”
Follow Jordan Schatz on Twitter: @Jordan_Whig