Utah football: For Kenneth Scott, pressure no match for purpose
His mother couldn’t walk. Needles of pain shot through her every time she took a step. Her limbs started to swell as she sat in the back seat of the car.
So Kenneth Scott took his mother on his back. He carried her up a flight of stairs and lowered her into bed. He was by her side for days, when she didn’t eat, when she tried to make the hurt vanish with pain pills. Latricia Banks went to the hospital in the end, where she very nearly lost the healthy kidney she waited 17 years to get. This episode, during a 2011 family trip to Fresno, Calif., was just one pothole along the difficult road of Scott’s life, one filled with anxiety and learning to cope.
"I’ve been through some things," said Banks, 43. "Scotty’s been through some things."
Most fans of the Utah football team feel like they know Scott, 21. He’s one of the most effusive and outgoing players on the squad. He’s known to bust freestyle raps with buddy Dres Anderson after practice or dress up in costume as his superhero persona the Dark Knight. He never turns down an autograph request or a photo op with young admirers.
But underneath, there’s a man driven by pride, circumstance, and the weight of dreams. He’s tireless, catching passes spitting from the jugs machine after teammates, coaches and media have dispersed.
"Know one of the reasons why Scotty is really, really good?" Kyle Whittingham once stopped to tell reporters, gesturing toward Scott. "It’s that."
It’s all for a purpose: Make the NFL. If he can do that, he can go back to the modest, second-floor apartment where he grew up, and he can show his mother that all the things they shouldered, all the pressures of two decades dominated by illness and scraping by, it amounted to something.
"I’m trying to provide," he said of his mom. "I want to make sure she can get what she wasn’t able to."
The quiet boy • Kenneth first learned to carry his own weight in the lobby of a dialysis center.
As a child, he accompanied his mother to the center near their home in San Bernadino County three times a week. He would play with toys he brought, or craft animals or tiny forts out of paper for as long as five hours a session.
His mother suffers from lupus, which she discovered soon after her son was born in Texas in 1992. What started as flu-like symptoms turned dangerous: A stroke landed her in a coma. Doctors told her family she might have three days to live.
Kenneth doesn’t remember those early, scary moments, when his aunts and grandmother held him close, praying Latricia would wake up. But he remembers those lonely hours of waiting for his mother’s blood to be cleaned through the network of pipes and machines.
His father wasn’t around. All they had was each other.
"I had to grow up faster than I really wanted to," he said. "I would go in there every so often, but I didn’t want to bother her, with what she was going through."
Family members say Scott was quiet growing up and clung to his mother. They worried about his behavior, that he was growing too introverted.
It was Kenneth’s stepfather, Theo Bland, who pushed the boy out of the house, where he took up sports. He was a quick study, a natural athlete on the basketball court and a long, lanky downfield threat on the football field.
A closer look at Kenneth Scott
O Born Sept. 19, 1992 in Galveston, Texas.
» All-state receiver at Colony High in Fontana, Calif.
» Caught 90 passes for 1,704 yards and 15 TDs for the Titans.
» Had 32 receptions for 360 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore for the Utes.
» Suffered season-ending injuries in 2010, 2013.
» Caught four passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in his return to game action against Idaho State.
Fresno St. at Utah
O Saturday, 1 p.m.