BOWL COVERAGE: Great Scott! Boston Overcomes Obstacles in Bulldog Career

Dec. 18, 2017

by Malcolm Butler mbutler@latech.edu

RUSTON — See Boston block. See Boston catch. See Boston run.

Boston — in this case Louisiana Tech senior running back Boston Scott — gives credit to God for his ability to do all of these things and more.

After all, it was only a few years ago that the Baton Rouge native began to doubt whether he would ever be able to run, much less play football, again.

Succeeding at football on the collegiate level was going to be a challenge for Boston as it was. The three-sport athlete out of Zachary High School didn’t receive a single Division I offer to play on the gridiron, mostly due to the measurements of his physique — 5-foot-6 and less than 200 pounds — but not his heart.

But because of Louisiana Tech’s renowned engineering program (Boston was originally majoring in mechanical engineering before graduating in November in kinesiology and health science), he chose to enroll in Ruston and take a chance.

“I had sent my film out to every college out there,” said Boston. “I just wanted a chance. I was standing in a line of students at orientation and I got a direct message from Coach (Joe) Sloan saying, ‘Hey Boston. We got your highlight tape, and we want you to come in as walk-on.’ It was a cool coincidence.” Sloan remembers why the program offered Boston the chance to walk-on with the Bulldogs, despite his lack of physical size.

“He played in a really good program at Zachary High School for a great guy at the time in Neil Weiner,” said Sloan. “He spoke to (Boston’s) character. Boston’s elusiveness and quickness stood out on film. The same things he showed on the field here that have made him such a special player.”

These days Boston is the prototypical collegiate football player, a sculpture of human flesh. No fat on that frame.

 

 

But during his true freshman season in 2013, Boston began suffering from mysterious neurological symptoms during his first quarter in college.

Muscle twitches. Fatigue. Cramps, Numbness. Weakness.

“My body started to break down on me,” said Boston, who leads Louisiana Tech into Wednesday’s 7 p.m. match-up against SMU in the DXL Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium. “It was scary. My mom saw her child dealing with a condition that people thought might be ALS or MS.

“I was already feeling numb everywhere from the waist down. I felt weak. I had to walk everywhere because I didn’t have a car. I remember walking to class one morning. I lived in UP, and I made it halfway to the bridge. I was like, ‘What are you doing?’ (as Boston looks down at legs). Somebody had to come get me. It was real frustrating.”

Boston’s mom, Shelly, remembers the fall of 2013 vividly. And not so fondly.

“It was very difficult,” said Shelly. “Boston is a very optimistic person. He is a positive person, but that is the first time that I saw him almost lose all hope. We got a couple of bad (doctor) reports at that time. They couldn’t figure out what was going on with his legs, and they also said something was going on with his neck and he should never play football again.”

The dreaded words that no player ever wants to hear.

“He had gotten really down in regards to that,” said Shelly. “We continued to pray and share his issues. I had never seen him become so distraught. I know playing football, especially professionally, was one of his dreams.”

Due to the type of symptoms, especially the numbness in his legs, one of the first thoughts was a bulging disk in the lower back. However, tests showed nothing wrong; a spinal specialist in Dallas that works with the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys found nothing out of the ordinary.

Next came a rheumatologist in Baton Rouge. Again, test results were all normal. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Everyone was at a loss. Boston remembers walking into the office of then Louisiana Tech Athletics Trainer Keith Bunch.

“He sat me down and said, ‘God has a plan,’” said Boston. “I was like, ‘Whoa man …what?’ It was tough for everyone. I understand now the frustration of people because they didn’t understand even when I tried to explain. The coaches wanted me to contribute. I wanted to be out there as bad as the next guy. I love football, but I didn’t know what the heck was going on.”

Finally, after a fall filled with fatigue, fear and frustration, a musculoskeletal specialist in Texas discovered the issue. An electromyogram (EMG) performed by the specialist hit the right nerve, almost literally.

“He stuck the needle in my back and sent an impulse into my body,” said Boston. “You could hear the contractions of the muscles on the monitor. He started to hear my muscles fasciculating and twitching out of control. I said, ‘Yeah that is what I can feel all over my body.’”

Cramp fasciculation syndrome (CFS) was the diagnoses. Boston’s body wasn’t failing him. And he wasn’t suffering from a deadly disease with no cure. He simply had a rare peripheral nerve hyperexcitability disorder that causes cramps, pain, fatigue, and muscle stiffness.

“I had to supplement with Vitamin D,” said Boston. “I had to get away from intense physical activity. I had to take some antidepressants to keep my nerves in check. That got it under control. It took almost the entire year, but I’m good now.

With one big hurdle out of the way, Boston then faced a second one. As a walk-on, student-athletes have to pay for their own tuition, room and board. No free ride.

Following the end of the 2015 regular season, Tech was preparing for the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl and a match-up against Arkansas State. Although Boston was excited about the second straight bowl game for the Bulldogs, he wasn’t sure if he would be able to continue his college career.

The cost of tuition was adding up and his mother was already working two jobs. However, in the last team meeting before the Bulldogs departed for the Big Easy, Skip Holtz surprised Boston and teammates Aaron Brown and Gerald Shouse with an early Christmas present.

“Coach Holtz wrapped it up and acted like he was walking off,” said Boston. “He then stopped and said, ‘Wait a second. There are a few guys that have done big things for us this year as far as contributing.’ It was huge for me because going into the next quarter I didn’t know how I was going to be able to pay for school. It was real tough. I was considering going to find a job and not necessarily being able to go on with school. A blessing is an understatement as far as what it meant for me. I definitely needed it.”

Boston said his battles with the fear and uncertainty of life inevitably helped him build a stronger relationship with Christ.

“Coming in as a freshman my faith wasn’t where it is now,” said Boston, who has served as President of the Louisiana Tech chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes for two years. “I wanted to dabble in the partying, the college atmosphere, all of that. Ultimately, God did some work on me. He showed me that it’s not about the things in this world, but it’s my faith in Him that is most important.

“It allowed me to realize that football isn’t just a sport, it’s also my mission field. It’s where I have an opportunity to reach out to those who don’t know what I know. There are a lot of guys that are in the position that I used to be in.”

“After the struggles with the physical issues, we just decided we were going to stay positive and God was going to work it out,” said Shelly Scott. “And He did. It seemed like Boston got back to the place where I had always known him to be. His outlook certainly improved because of the fact he was rewarded that scholarship. It did something for his belief in God because after that he got really involved in the FCA. It opened up his belief system even more. It gave him more depth in reality. He saw God made something out of nothing.”

On the field, Boston saw very little playing time in 2014. Playing behind current NFL running back Kenneth Dixon and even fellow senior Jarred Craft, he finally started to see more opportunities to contribute during the Bulldogs run to the 2015 New Orleans Bowl, rushing for 275 yards and recording 251 more yards on kick returns.

He credits former teammates Hunter Lee, Blake Martin and Paul Turner with taking him under their wings as a young college student and showing him the importance of keeping God first. Now, he serves as the mentor to many young Tech student-athletes.

“In order to lead, you have to make sure you are living your life the right way,” said Sloan. “The way he does in school, the way he works in the weight room to get better, and then the extracurricular off the field especially with his faith. How he represents himself as the president of the FCA: that’s where I think it starts. The way he carries himself. And his personality: he gets along with everybody and has great relationships. That makes him such a great leader.”

He registered his first career 100-yard performance in Tech’s 47-28 win over Arkansas State in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl, including a 77-yard run from scrimmage against the Red Wolves.

The past two years, he has shared time in the backfield with Craft as the Bulldogs two-headed running monster. After rushing for 515 yards and six scores as a junior, he has bettered those numbers this year by totaling 937 yards and eight touchdowns.

Boston rushed for three touchdowns in a 42-28 win over Rice this season while also playing through a toe injury in the season finale to rush for a career-high 138 yards and the game-clinching 35-yard score with 2:23 to play in the 20-6 win over UTSA that made the Bulldogs bowl eligible.

“To watch the way he has grown from when he came in here as a freshman as an undersized walk-on running back who had some talent is amazing,” said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. “He suffered some injuries, and had to wait his turn … but Boston is a guy that kept working, kept getting bigger and faster.

“This year has been a great year for him as well as the way he has developed physically. He really grew and matured as a running back, making the hard yards in between the tackles, the extra yards. Boston means an awful lot to this team and is a leader because of his work ethic. As good of a player as he is on the football field, he is a better young man. It’s been a pleasure to coach him.”

As Boston takes the field for the final time in a Louisiana Tech uniform Wednesday night, he will do so alongside a senior class that has a chance to win four bowl games in four years. He will suit up one last time with his Bulldog brothers, trying to make history.

“I love this team and how we fight and compete no matter what the results have been,” said Boston. “We have had some close games, some heartbreakers. Some losses that a lot of teams don’t come back from. The team has the mindset of ‘What can we do to get better? We are going to come back harder next week.’ We never quit. I am so thankful for being able to be a part of a team like this that never quit, that responded positively to those circumstances.”

Circumstances have never stopped Boston Scott from playing a game he loves. The trials and tribulations of an up-and-down senior season won’t stop him now.

And for one final time, Bulldog fans will get to see Boston block, see Boston catch, and see Boston run.

Run fast, Boston. And run hard.

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