Much has been made recently of Jarryd Hayne’s transition from rugby to the NFL. It was almost as if the media both here and in the USA had made it out to be that Hayne was the pioneer of the code-swap between the two sports. His meteoric rise in both making it into a squad and in his marketability in America was unprecedented. Almost overnight, Australians took more than a vague interest in American football, jumping on board the “Hayne Plane” bandwagon, a sentiment reinforced by the majority of domestic sports media.
But Hayne was not the first Australian to make it big in the NFL, nor was he the first rugby man to be a household name in American football circles. That honour went to a man who grew up in the 70s in Palm Beach, Sydney, a giant specimen of a human, a man named Colin Scotts.
Scotts was born weighing a hefty 14 pounds (6.35kg) and held the record for being the biggest baby born in Australia. At his peak, he was 140kg and 6 foot 6 inches/196cm. He was a rugby player – union, to be specific, unlike Hayne, who came from league – who appropriately attended The Scots College and made the Australian Schoolboys team in 1981. He was on track to become a Wallaby, following in the footsteps of his uncle, Stuart. But while on tour in America with the Schoolboys team, he was fortuitously spotted by an assistant coach from the University of Hawaii, who was there to test a prospect in the opposition! He commissioned a film crew to follow the Australian youngsters around on their unbeaten world tour, and following that, Scotts received a knock on the door at his parents’ house in Sydney and was offered a full football scholarship in Hawaii. Timing is everything.
His transition into football was terrifying. “There were massive, strong men with pads of armour, 140 players, 25 screaming coaches and a yellow phonebook’s worth of new information to be memorised immediately. There were 14 players fighting for one position…I’m not proud of it, but I had to fight to survive, literally, breaking knees and jaws of my own teammates to make the team! It was all so professional – the food, the training, the motivation. The training was six weeks straight, twice a day.”
Following 5 years in Hawaii, he was finally drafted into the NFL in round 3 as pick number 72 for the St Louis Cardinals, playing 7 games for them as a defensive end and tight end in 1987.
“My first game was the greatest day of my life. I knew the whole world was watching. I was vomiting from nerves before the game, but we ended up beating Dallas in the last two minutes and I got two sacks (bringing the quarterback to his knees). I’ll never forget it.”
Scotts also became a cult figure, known for his ‘Roo Hop’, which was a little celebratory dance he did after a sack. The team then moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1988, becoming the Arizona Cardinals. Not long afterwards, Scotts was traded to the Houston Oilers, but did not play an NFL game for them.
He then dabbled in the WWF wrestling ring as the “Thunder from Down Under”, but that was deemed a failure. Ironically, he made more money in wrestling than he did in American football, but ended up with a broken back and a broken arm, and that was the end of his participation in that arena.
Nowadays, Scotts is a health Ambassador for the Government, teaching kids to love movement in the form of an activity or sport. He is also involved with an Australian-based artificial turf company, Grassman, something that coincides with his passion to increase participation in sport in Australia.
Scotts was a guest speaker last year at a Rugby Business Network event with which I was involved, and he spoke about taking educated risks in life, having a go and focusing on the things that we are passionate about, as well as enjoying the journey. “If you can laugh at yourself, no-one can laugh at you!” is something his mother taught him as a kid, while his father instilled in him that, “Life starts at the end of your comfort zone.” For Scotts, that comfort zone was certainly breached the moment he stepped onto an American football pitch, but from there, he never looked back.
Quotes and research mainly from: http://www.scottycam.com.au/blog/colin-scotts-a-chat-with-a-giant/