A college captain. A postseason vet. A seamless locker room fit ascending into his second contract.
Bengals head coach Zac Taylor and his staff have followed their Roaring '20s Super Bowl formula in the first week of NFL free agency and reportedly came out of it with Rams starting safety Nick Scott this weekend. The Bengals won't announce the deal until it is signed, which could be as early as Monday. But Scott happily confirmed he's the newest Bengal.
"Already in the text chain," Scott said late Friday night. "I've received a text from just about everybody in the DB room and linebacker room. (Sam) Hubbard. (Trey) Hendrickson. All those guys reached out already within minutes of me (agreeing to) the deal. That defense embraced me. When you're tight like that, it makes it easy to be on one accord and play good ball."
We've reached the point where suddenly Taylor is heading into his fifth season, arriving the day after his Rams lost the Super Bowl to the Patriots. In NFL years, that's a generation ago. Taylor was never with Scott on the Rams and, in fact, coached against him in Super Bowl LVI when Scott started and helped edge the Bengals a year ago in February.
"I tried not to bring that up on the visit," said Scott, who was at Paycor Stadium Thursday. "But they brought it up themselves. How good of a game it was and how to hopefully return to have that opportunity again. This team is fully capable of being a Super Bowl team. They've got every piece that you need to do it. I'm fortunate enough to have been on the winning side of that. I really think we can get back there with this team. I'm excited. That whole (secondary) room has got a lot of talent and I'm only hoping I can add to it and bring the best out of those guys because I know they'll bring the best out of me with the experience they have. And you can tell what a tight-knit group they are."
We're also at the point where defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo and his Staten Island Stew scheme have become a destination point.
"I was able to meet with Coach Lou and once he walked me through all the things they do and how he likes to play, I thought this is a no-brainer. This is where I want to play ball," Scott said. "It was a little bit of everything. His reputation and how he presented his defense. He'd be somebody actually able to explain the defense to me, not just what we're doing, but why we're doing it. Anytime you get coaches that are good at explaining it that way and getting the team to understand that, it makes for some good football."
Earlier in the week the Bengals lost their safety tandem of Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell and their playoff heroics, but are responding with first-round pick Dax Hill and a veteran with his own playoff heroics in Scott. While Bates and Bell were well established, Scott, the Penn State captain and seventh-round pick, earned his starting spot in the postseason.
A few hours after Bates' tip led to Bell's interception in the overtime AFC title game win in Kansas City, Scott was in Los Angeles blowing up 49ers wide receiver Deebo Samuel over the middle to force an incomplete pass on the hit of the 2021 postseason in a three-point win during the NFC title game he had six tackles. The week before that in Tampa Bay in the NFC Divisional, the Rams escaped with another three-point win and Scott was huge in the two-minute drill at the end of the half when he broke up a Hall-of-Fame combo undercutting tight end Rob Gronkowski's route to intercept quarterback Tom Brady.
And the 5-11, 198-pound Scott came flying off the bench to do it. A special teams maven in his third season with one career start, injuries forced him to start all four playoff games of the Super Bowl run and he responded with 14 tackles, the pick and four passes defended, two of which earned the NFL's Pass Breakup of the Week. Then this year he became a full-time starter and it's believed the combination of his physicality, speed and quick thinking (both parents are educators) made him the Bengals' No. 1 choice if they lost a safety.
"A smart player. Extremely tough. Extremely athletic. Excellent locker room guy," says Joe DeCamillis, his special teams coordinator with the Rams and a highly regarded 34-year NFL man.
"He was a leader in the special teams area, but then last year after some of the older guys left in the secondary, Nick definitely took that over and became a huge leader. I think you're getting a player that's on the come and on the rise. He's a very physical player, but also a very smart player. I think that's why the defense just kept putting more and more on his plate and he kept getting better and better. Those are the kind of guys, hungry like that, and now that he's at a place where he's a solid starter in this league, I think he's only going to get better from there."
The Bengals have been extremely effective in finding those ascending second-contract players, such as nose tackle DJ Reader, edge rusher Trey Hendrickson and cornerbacks Chidobe Awuzie and Mike Hilton, as well as right guard Alex Cappa.
Here's how Scott sees his own game:
"Really high octane. High energy type of player. I try to play as hard as possible. I try to hit people as hard as possible. I like to make splash plays. I like to make the crowd ooh and aah and get people excited. High energy all the time. I play at one speed. A hundred miles an hour."
Scott, who turns 28 in May, has been around more than the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Born in Lancaster, Pa., his family moved when his dad Irvin Scott was named the chief academic officer for Boston City Schools. In the middle of his career at Brookline High School, he transferred to Fairfax, Va., when Irvin Scott became the deputy director for K-12 education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. When he went to Penn State, Nick Scott also broke in on special teams before moving from running back to safety and winning the Captain's Award his junior and senior seasons. After getting his psychology degree, he captained the Nittany Lions his senior year while getting started on his master's.
With his family moving back to Pennsylvania (Irvin Scott is an online senior lecturer on education at Harvard and his mother Lakisha Scott teaches at a Lancaster high school), Nick Scott, with his young family, thought it would be a good time to get closer.
"(Cincinnati) is close to Pennsylvania, where I was born and raised," Scott said. "The ride in from the airport reminded me of that and it's going to be nice to be not so far away."