He developed a reputation for scrambling some years ago, during his days as a quarterback at Minneapolis’ Southwest High School. Ayrton Scott was the kind of player who thrived when things fell apart, an improvisational savant who could pick up the pieces of a broken play and conjure up something unexpected.
The Augsburg junior said those unscripted moments remain his favorite part of the game. But before he could showcase those skills in the MIAC, he had to prove he could work a similar kind of magic when life imitated football. With Scott’s chance to play in college threatened by his poor academic performance in high school, he handled things the same way he managed havoc on the field: He kept his wits, dug in and found a way to create something good.
Scott had to spend a year toiling at a community college to gain admittance to Augsburg. Once there, he rewarded coach Frank Haege — who helped Scott navigate the road back to football — by immediately becoming one of the most productive quarterbacks in Division III. The two-time all-MIAC pick already has passed for more than 5,000 yards and run for more than 2,000 in his career, which resumes Saturday with Augsburg’s season opener against Wartburg.
“My story is a little long, but I’m happy I’m here,” said Scott, who ranked seventh in Division III in total offense last season with 341.4 yards per game. “Thank God things worked out the way they did. I absolutely love Augsburg. This is where I’m supposed to be.”
Haege retooled his offense to a spread option when Scott arrived in 2012, overhauling the Auggies’ running game to suit Scott’s abilities. Last season, Scott led the league with 276.7 passing yards per game and 25 touchdowns through the air, following a sensational freshman season in which he threw for 26 touchdowns and ran for 12.
“We’d never had a dual-threat quarterback here before him,” said Haege, in his 10th season at Augsburg. “Two or three times every practice, he just does something that makes you say, ‘Oh, my goodness.’ If everything’s not perfect, he will still make a play. And I think he’ll continue to get better.”
Reshaping his goals
Scott forged his first connection with Augsburg when he was growing up in south Minneapolis. His uncle Derek Jones taught him to play football and sometimes brought him to Edor Nelson Field to throw the ball around.
Blessed with a strong arm, nimble legs and a mind for the game, Scott became a two-time all-conference pick at Southwest and league MVP as a senior. He said he was offered a full scholarship by Iowa State and was recruited by North Dakota State and St. Cloud State, but poor grades ended their courtship.
Scott had rejected Augsburg earlier, when he harbored hopes of playing in Division I. Still, Augsburg’s coaches remained in touch with him and wished him well. With few options, he enrolled at North Dakota State College of Science; when he left before playing a game and returned to the Twin Cities, he contacted Haege.
To get into Augsburg, the coach said, Scott would have to be a full-time student for one year at a community college and maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.5. “It was a crapshoot,” Haege said. “But we’ll work with any kid, and we knew he was serious.”
While at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, Scott also had to accept that his dream of Division I glory was likely dead.
“It was very disappointing, because that’s what every kid wants,” he said. “But I had to wrap my mind around playing football somewhere, for a coach that likes me and wants me and likes my style.”
Student of the game
As a freshman, Scott lit up the MIAC, averaging 368 yards a game while dazzling fans with his creativity. He said he felt more comfortable with the playbook last year — even as Haege continued to tweak the offense — and learned to counter defenses that targeted him. Scott spent lots of time indoors this summer, studying film of his mistakes in hopes of increasing his passing accuracy.
Haege said Scott is leaner and faster than last year, when he was bothered late in the season by a hamstring injury. Receiver Joey Sonnenfeld added that Scott has become more of a student of the game, augmenting his ability to ad-lib.
“He’s just getting better and better, physically and mentally,” said Sonnenfeld, an all-MIAC receiver who caught 13 touchdown passes last season. “It’s very fun to play with him. We feel comfortable that he can make a play out of absolutely nothing.”
Scott is working toward a degree in exercise science, with the goal of becoming a personal trainer. His football ambitions include winning a MIAC title, becoming league MVP and perhaps playing professionally. His mother, Tonya Jones, and grandmother Vicky Jones are among a crew of relatives and friends who attend every game, another reason that Augsburg feels like home.
During his freshman year, Scott said, he briefly wondered what life would be like if he were playing in Division I. He quickly scrambled away from that thought, knowing firsthand that the sweetest outcomes can arise from unexpected twists.
“My family told me, ‘Just worry about your education and finish what you started,’ ” he said. “That’s what I want to do. I want to help this team as much as I can.”