The goal of every defensive player is to minimize offensive production, whether it be in terms of yards, first downs, or points.
Some defensive players, those that make the most impact, take it a step further.
They not only stop the opposing offense, but they also recover turnovers, helping their own offensive team to score points.
During a 13-year career with the Cleveland Browns, Clarence Scott was one of the best in Browns history at recovering turnovers.
His ability to intercept passes and recover fumbles earned him a Pro Bowl invitation and helped Cleveland make the playoffs in four seasons.
— KS Sports HoF (@kshof) June 13, 2018
We take a look at the life of Clarence Scott – before, during, and after his NFL playing career.
The Early Years Through High School
Clarence Raymond Scott Jr. was born on April 9, 1949 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Scott grew up in Decatur, Georgia.
Decatur is a suburb of Atlanta.
His father was a truck driver for a paper company.
His mother owned a beauty salon.
Scott had two sisters.
While in elementary school, Scott developed an interest in football.
On Saturday mornings, he would listen to neighborhood discussions about the high school football games from Friday night.
“I developed within me something that I could reach for, and it turned out to be a real good life.”
Even though he grew up in Georgia, and not Ohio, Scott’s favorite NFL team was the Cleveland Browns.
“I was a Cleveland Browns fan from the time I was a boy. There were no Atlanta Falcons, no Miami Dolphins, no New Orleans Saints, no Carolina Panthers, no Jacksonville Jaguars at the time, so on Sundays we got on television NFL games involving the Browns, Baltimore Colts, Washington Redskins and New York Giants. The Browns were my favorite team because Jim Brown was my favorite player. I wanted to be a Cleveland Brown from sixth grade on.”
When Scott had to choose between leaving church early and watching his favorite team play in the 1964 NFL championship game, Scott chose football.
“I can remember whispering to my mother, ‘I’ve got to get out of here and go home and watch the Cleveland Browns play the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship Game. It starts at one o’clock.’ And that’s what I did.”
Scott attended Trinity High School in Decatur, graduating in 1967.
Trinity High School was an all-African American high school.
At Trinity High School, Scott excelled in both football and basketball.
In football, Scott played wide receiver and cornerback, starting at both positions his junior and senior seasons.
Scott was named All-State at wide receiver his junior season in 1965.
His play helped Trinity High School have an undefeated season and win the school’s first-ever state championship in 1965.
“It was a tremendous accomplishment. Our school gave us jackets that had our names and State Championship emblem on it. In fact, my father wore my jacket until he wore it out.”
As a senior in 1966, Scott was again named All-State at wide receiver.
In basketball, Scott was the starting shooting guard as a junior and senior.
Scott was recruited by many major colleges, including Kansas State, Michigan State, Wake Forest, and Northwestern.
He ultimately accepted a scholarship from Kansas State and headed to Manhattan, Kansas for college.
Kansas State had recruited Scott to play wide receiver, hoping to have him catch passes from quarterback Lynn Dickey (who was to have a 13-year NFL career with the Green Bay Packers and Houston Oilers).
However, Scott never played wide receiver at Kansas State.
Instead, Scott played cornerback, starting in all three of his varsity seasons.
As a sophomore, in 1968, Scott had five interceptions.
Kansas State had a 4-6 record in 1968.
One of its victories was a 12-0 shutout of Nebraska on November 9, 1968, the first victory for Kansas State over the Cornhuskers in nine years.
Scott was part of a Kansas State defense that held Nebraska to only 68 “net passing” yards and 78 “net rushing” yards.
Scott had three interceptions in 1969.
In 1969, Kansas State posted a 5-5 record.
One of its wins was a 59-21 defeat of Oklahoma on October 25, 1969, the first Kansas State win over the Sooners since 1934.
As a senior in 1970, Scott had four interceptions.
In 1970, Scott was named All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, Pro Football Weekly, Time magazine, and The Sporting News, and second team All-American by the Newspaper Enterprise Association, at defensive back. He was also named All-Big Eight Conference at defensive back by the Associated Press in 1970.
Clarence Scott, Gibson era great. All American defensive back and 1st round draft pick. https://t.co/FYVVlmtIpu
— ksu_FAN (@ksu_FAN) October 22, 2020
For being an All-American in 1970, Scott was invited to appear on television on The Bob Hope Show.
Kansas State had a 6-5 record in 1970 – its first season with a winning record since 1954.
Among its victories were a win over eighth-ranked Colorado (21-20 on October 3, 1970) and another win over Oklahoma (19-14 on October 24, 1970).
After posting a combined record of 1-28-1 in the three years from 1965 to 1967 before Scott played for Kansas State, the school significantly improved to a combined 15-16 record in the three years from 1968 to 1970 that Scott played for Kansas State.
For his Kansas State career, in addition to his 12 interceptions (which ranks tied for fifth in Kansas State history), which he returned for 144 yards (which ranks tenth in Kansas State history), Scott had 173 tackles and 41 passes defended (which ranks tied for fourth in Kansas State history).
Scott lacked sufficient credits to graduate in 1971, but he returned to Kansas State during his first two NFL off-seasons and earned his degree in social science.
After his senior season, Scott played in four All-Star games (the Senior Bowl, the North-South All-Star Game, the Coaches All-America Game, and the College All-Star Game against the defending NFL champion Baltimore Colts) before ending his college football career and heading to the NFL.
The Pro Football Years
Scott was thrilled to be drafted by his favorite team, the Cleveland Browns, with the 14th overall pick in the 1971 NFL draft.
He was the first defensive back selected in 1971.
Pretty sure it was Clarence Scott! pic.twitter.com/I5Cy2Q5qeg
— jjcimp (@jjcimp) September 22, 2020
Cleveland fans initially did not share Scott’s happiness, as they wanted the team to draft Ohio State’s Jack Tatum.
“Cleveland fans didn’t know who I was. The Browns needed a cornerback, though. Tatum was a safety. Erich Barnes was in his last year, and I replaced him. So when I ran out onto the field before our only preseason home game, the fans booed. I wasn’t upset about it either. I understood. Tatum was from Ohio State, and I was from Kansas State.”
However, Scott quickly won the support of Browns fans.
In his first NFL regular season game, against the Houston Oilers on September 19, 1971, Scott intercepted two passes, which he returned for 27 yards.
Cleveland shut out the Oilers 31-0.
The following week, Scott had another interception, as the Browns defeated the Baltimore Colts 14-13 on September 26, 1971.
Scott was part of a Cleveland defense that held the Colts to only 41 “net pass yards”.
For his rookie season in 1971 (playing at a height of six feet and a weight of 190 pounds), Scott played in and started 13 regular season games at left cornerback.
He intercepted four passes, which he returned for 47 yards.
With a 9-5 record, Cleveland won the AFC Central Division title in 1971.
Scott contributed to the Browns defense ranking in the NFL regular season in 1971 tied for eighth in total recovered turnovers (40), fourth in fewest passing yards allowed (1,967), and eighth in intercepted passes (24).
Cleveland advanced to the playoffs to play the Baltimore Colts on December 26, 1971.
Scott started the game at left cornerback, but the Browns lost to the Colts 20-3.
After the game, Cleveland owner Art Modell came up to Scott in the locker room.
“He said, ‘You’re going to be here a long time,’ and I said, ‘Thank you, sir, I appreciate that.’ And I was there a long time.”
In the opening game of the 1972 regular season, Scott scored his first NFL regular season touchdown on a 55-yard blocked field goal return, in a 26-10 Cleveland loss to the Green Bay Packers on September 17, 1972.
Scott helped Cleveland’s defense hold the New York Jets to only 24 “net pass yards” in a 26-10 Cleveland win over the Jets in the last game of the 1972 regular season on December 17, 1972.
Although he played the 1982 season with a dislocated right thumb, Scott started all 14 regular season games at left cornerback.
He was named second team All-Conference by United Press International in 1972.
The Browns posted a 10-4 record in 1972, which was sufficient for them to earn a “wild card” playoff berth.
Scott helped Cleveland’s defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1972 tied for eighth in recovered fumbles (16), third in fewest passing yards allowed (1,736), and tied for fifth in sacks (38).
In the 1972 playoffs, Cleveland met the undefeated Miami Dolphins on December 24, 1972.
Scott started the game at left cornerback and helped Cleveland hold the Dolphins to only 74 “net pass yards”.
The Browns took the lead in the fourth quarter, but Miami ultimately won the game 20-14.
In the opening game of the 1973 regular season, on September 16, 1973, Scott scored his second NFL regular season touchdown when he intercepted Baltimore Colts quarterback Bert Jones and returned the interception for a 45-yard touchdown.
Scott helped Cleveland limit the Colts to only 4 “net pass yards”, as the Browns defeated Baltimore 24-14.
In 1973, Scott again started all 14 regular season games at left cornerback.
He intercepted five passes, which he returned for 71 yards.
Scott was invited to the Pro Bowl in 1973. He was also named second team All-Pro by the Newspaper Enterprise Association and first team All-Conference by United Press International in 1973.
Cleveland had a 7-5-2 record in 1973, but missed the playoffs.
Scott had two interceptions of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Tom Owen, and Scott returned the interceptions for 11 yards, in a 7-0 Cleveland shutout of San Francisco on December 1, 1974.
In addition, Scott helped Cleveland’s defense hold San Francisco to only 33 “net pass yards”.
In 1974, Scott, at left cornerback, again started all 14 regular season games.
Scott had four interceptions, which he returned for 42 yards.
The Browns had a 4-10 record in 1974.
With Scott at left cornerback, Cleveland ranked in the NFL regular season in 1974 tied for fourth in total recovered turnovers (40), tied for fifth in recovered fumbles (16), eighth in fewest passing yards allowed (2,025), and tied for fifth in intercepted passes (24).
On September 28, 1975, Scott had two interceptions of future Pro Football Hall of Fame Minnesota Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton, and Scott returned the interceptions for four yards, in a 42-10 Vikings defeat of Cleveland.
Scott again started all 14 regular season games at left cornerback in 1975.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) August 5, 2019
In 1975, Cleveland posted a 3-11 record.
On October 31, 1976, in a 21-6 Cleveland loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, Scott had two interceptions of Ken Anderson, and Scott returned the interceptions for five yards.
For the fifth consecutive year, in 1976, Scott started all 14 regular season games at left cornerback.
In 1976, Scott intercepted four passes, which he returned for 11 yards, and also recovered three fumbles.
In explaining his football success, Scott did not cite his speed or other athletic ability.
“I just knew how to play football. I had the instincts to play.”
Cleveland rebounded with a 9-5 record in 1976, but failed to make the playoffs.
On October 16, 1977, Scott scored his third NFL regular season touchdown when he intercepted Houston Oilers quarterback John Hadl and returned the interception for a 49-yard touchdown. Cleveland defeated Houston 24-23.
In 1977, Scott played in all 14, and started nine, regular season games at left cornerback.
He intercepted three passes, which he returned for 72 yards.
Cleveland posted a 6-8 record in 1977.
In 1978, Scott played in all 16, and started 12, regular season games at Left cornerback.
Clarence Scott & Thom Darden pic.twitter.com/PLIKQLwLCW
— Michael Robert (@Islandmike13) December 31, 2020
He intercepted three passes, which he returned for fifteen yards, and also recovered one fumble.
The Browns had an 8-8 record in 1978 and failed to make the playoffs.
Scott contributed to the Browns ranking in the NFL regular season in 1978 tied for fifth in recovered turnovers (45) and tied for seventh in intercepted passes (27).
Scott moved from left cornerback to strong safety in 1979.
At strong safety, Scott started all 16 regular season games in 1979.
Cleveland posted a 9-7 record, but failed to make the playoffs, in 1979.
Scott was part of a Browns defense that held the Seattle Seahawks to only three points, in a 27-3 Cleveland victory over Seattle on October 12, 1980.
— Old Time Football 🏈 (@Ol_TimeFootball) October 17, 2020
In 1980, Scott again started all 16 regular season games at strong safety.
He intercepted two passes, which he returned for 14 yards.
The 1980 season was special for the Browns.
Known as the “Kardiac Kids”, for having several games decided in the final minutes, Cleveland had an 11-5 record and won the AFC Central Division title.
“They made songs about us. It was great. It was a beautiful run.”
Cleveland met the Oakland Raiders in the playoffs on January 4, 1981.
Scott started the game at strong safety, but the Browns lost to the Raiders 14-12.
Scott intercepted future Pro Football Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw and returned the interception for 12 yards, in a 32-10 Cleveland loss to Pittsburgh on November 22, 1981.
For the third consecutive year, Scott started all 16 regular season games at strong safety in 1981.
In addition to intercepting four passes, which he returned for 46 yards, Scott recovered three fumbles in 1981.
Cleveland fell to a 5-11 record in 1981.
Because of a strike by players, there were only nine regular season games in 1982; Scott started all of them, primarily at free safety.
He intercepted three passes, which he returned for 29 yards, and also recovered two fumbles.
The Browns had a 4-5 record in 1982, which, under the NFL’s expanded 16-team playoff system in use in 1982, was sufficient for the team to make the playoffs.
Scott helped Cleveland’s defense rank in the NFL regular season in 1982 second in recovered turnovers (28), tied for seventh in recovered fumbles (11), and tied for fourth in interceptions (17).
Cleveland played the Los Angeles Raiders in the playoffs on January 8, 1983.
Scott started the game at free safety and intercepted Raiders quarterback Jim Plunkett (Scott returned the interception for three yards).
However, Los Angeles defeated Cleveland 27-10.
Scott intercepted Seattle Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn in a 24-9 Cleveland loss to the Seahawks on October 2, 1983.
It proved to be the last interception of Scott’s NFL career.
In 1983, Scott played in all 16, and started five, games, primarily at strong safety.
Cleveland had a 9-7 record in 1983, but failed to make the playoffs.
Before the start of the 1984 season, at the age of 35, Scott retired from the NFL.
Browns head coach Sam Rutigliano said:
“Clarence influenced by example. He is a role model for both rookies and veterans. His retirement is a tremendous loss.”
The Years After the NFL
Scott was first married to Regina and then was married to Eleanor.
With Regina, he had three children, one son and two daughters.
After his NFL retirement, Scott returned to the Atlanta area.
He operated a travel agency, partnered in a cleaning company, and worked as an independent contractor for an energy company.
Scott was inducted into the K-State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003.
#decaturga Community Shout-out: Clarence Scott, former Trinity High School football player and valedictorian was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame this month. Clarence played at Kansas State, then in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns. Congrats, Clarence! #wearedecatur pic.twitter.com/W34Nenno0u
— City of Decatur- GA (@CityofDecaturGA) October 20, 2018
In 2011, Scott was inducted into the Decatur High School Wall of Fame.
Scott was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends Program in 2012.
Kansas State further honored Scott when it added him to the K-State Ring of Honor in 2015.
Scott was inducted into the Atlanta Sports Hall of Fame in 2016.
In assessing Scott’s NFL career, Scott stands out for his ability to recover turnovers for the Browns.
First, in terms of interceptions, Scott ranks third in Cleveland career regular season interceptions (39), seventh in Cleveland career regular season interception return yards (407), and tied for seventh in Cleveland career regular season interception return touchdowns (2).
Scott was also consistent with his interceptions.
Except in 1972, Scott had at least two interceptions in every season of his NFL career.
Second, in terms of fumble recoveries, Scott ranks tied for seventh in Cleveland career regular season defensive fumble recoveries (11).
When his interceptions and fumble recoveries are combined, Scott ranks second in Cleveland career recovered turnovers (50), only trailing his former teammate safety Thom Darden by four recovered turnovers.
“My heart’s desire was to be a Cleveland Brown. What were the chances of me being drafted by the Browns? Even being available? Or even that they’d want me? Everything that’s happened to me has been because God has said, ‘This is what you want and I’m willing to give it to you,’ and I have no complaints. The only thing I ever wanted to do was to be a football player . . . and to be a football player for the Browns. And I did that. So that, in and of itself, has provided me with just a wonderful life. My connection and contact with the Browns and their fans, and everything about them both, have been a big part of it. I’m glad to have lived the life of a Cleveland Brown.”
For his many interceptions and fumble recoveries, helping the Browns make the playoffs in four seasons (including two division titles), Cleveland fans are also very pleased that Clarence Scott played defense for the Browns.