Packers create competition by taking punter Scott, WR Valdes-Scantling in fifth round

Scott Venci
Packers News
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Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide punter JK Scott (15) kicks the ball as Clemson Tigers safety Tanner Muse (19) jumps during the first quarter in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

GREEN BAY – Alabama punter JK Scott grew up in a household of Green Bay Packers fans with no fewer than 10 Cheeseheads.

He spent summers in Lake Owen in a lake house owned by his parents. His father, Kim, was a standout pole vaulter at Madison West High School who went on to compete at the University of Wisconsin.

The 6-foot-6, 204-pound Scott even attended a game at Lambeau Field and was a big fan of Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre.

So, yes, getting drafted by the Packers with the first of their two compensatory picks in the fifth round Saturday (172nd overall) made for a crazy day.

“Honestly, I had no idea what to expect because none of the teams were telling me anything as far as where I would go,” said Scott, who is from Denver. “So, I really didn’t know what to expect. I just went into this process just hoping for the best and yeah. … It’s crazy how this happens.”

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Scott’s selection means there likely will be a serious competition in training camp with incumbent Justin Vogel, who earned the job last season as an undrafted free agent and set a single-season team record for punting average.

It’s the first time the Packers have drafted a punter since 2004, when they traded up in the third round to land B.J. Sander.

It doesn’t mean Scott has a leg up in the race, at least not to everyone.

“I think it’s just competition,” Packers college scout Matt Malaspina said. “By no means is it over. The NFL is based on that. We want to bring out the best in every player, and in order to do that, it’s a competition.”

Scott, a two-time Ray Guy Award finalist, brings some serious credentials.

He was one of the best punters in the nation last season, averaging 42.3 yards per punt.

Only five of his 54 punts were returned for a total of 36 yards, with two of the returns going for no gain. He dropped 27 of his 54 kicks inside the 20-yard line with only four touchbacks. He also handled kickoff duties and even booted a 48-yard field goal.

Scott holds the school record in punting yards (11,074), punting average (45.6) and attempts (243).

He has worked well under pressure and in big moments, having played at Alabama and helping it win two national championships. He even asked President Donald Trump during the team’s visit to the White House in April if he could pray for him after shaking his hand, which led to a circle of players huddling around him to all pray together.

“I think it’s definitely been such a great opportunity for me to play at Alabama since we’re going to the playoffs every single year,” Scott said. “I played in three national championship games. So definitely there have been a lot of really great games. It’s definitely helped me very much to prepare. It’s gotten me used to any situation. Really, I’ve been able look at every game the same.”

So much has happened since Scott almost walked away from the game a few years ago because of tendonitis in both knees that made it painful to even walk.

“I was at a place where I was wondering if football was something I was supposed to be doing because my knee injury kept getting worse,” he said. “Finally, I got put with this physical therapist, his name is Kevin Wilk, who works with a lot of NBA guys with the same injury.

“He started working with me and taking me through his protocol, and slowly over time, my knee started to regenerate tissues to where I’m completely healthy again. I would say that whole thing, that whole experience, I’m thankful for that experience because the way the Lord is working in my life showed himself to me and fixed my eyes on him.”

A short time after taking Scott, the Packers selected South Florida wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling (174th overall), whose biggest contribution early on could be on special teams as the new version of Jeff Janis.

The 6-5, 209-pound Valdes-Scantling was one of three receivers taken by the Packers in the first six rounds Saturday, joining Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the fourth round and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown in the sixth.

He set a single-season school record with 879 yards in 2017 on a team-leading 53 receptions. He ranks 10th all-time at USF with 1,294 yards in just two seasons.

Valdes-Scantling has some impressive measurables, including running the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds at the NFL combine.

“I am thankful for the opportunity that the Green Bay Packers selected me when they did,” he said. “I don’t care about whether it was the first round, last round, undrafted. I’m ready to come in and work. No matter how much money you make, you still have to play football.”

The JK Scott file

Position: Punter.  School: Alabama. Pick: Round 5, 172 overall.

Height: 6-6. Weight: 204. Age: 23. Hometown: Denver. Lowdown: John Kimball Scott made a name for himself as a freshman in 2014, when he was chosen first-team All-American by Sporting News, ESPN and USA Today. He ended up being a two-time Ray Guy Award finalist who played in three national championship games and won two titles in 2015 and 2017. Was rated as the No. 1 punter in the nation coming out of high school by Chris Sailer, who is regarded as one of the top private kicking coaches in the nation. Scott averaged 43.1 yards per punt during his four seasons at Alabama. “I’m a two-step guy,” Scott said. “My punt, the thing people notice about me is two things – I don’t ever come off the ground. Two, I get my leg pretty high up in the air, so those are the things that make me kind of unique among the punters in the country. I don’t come off the ground because I don’t need to since my leg comes up so high. I would say I use a lot of the leverage from my legs. Having long legs helps me get a lot of leverage through the ball.”

American team's Marquez Valdes-Scantling, of South Florida, catches a pass as National team's Henre' Toliver, of Arkansas, defends during the first half of the Collegiate Bowl college football game, Saturday, Jan. 20, 2018, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The Marquez Valdes-Scantling file

Position: Wide receiver. School: South Florida. Pick: Round 5, 174 overall.

Height: 6-5. Weight: 209Age: 23. Hometown: St. Petersburg, Fla. Lowdown: Has good size and speed for a receiver and the ability to stretch the field. A big-play wideout, with 26.4 percent of his catches going for 25 or more yards. Likely needs to work on his route running. Played two seasons at North Carolina State before transferring, catching 44 passes for 538 yards. Started all 13 games his first season at South Florida in 2016, when he ranked fifth on the team with 22 catches for 415 yards and tied for a team-high five touchdowns. Set USF single-season receiving records as a senior last year with 53 receptions for 879 yards and six scores. He had three 100-yard games in his final five contests, including 133 yards and a TD against Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl. His biggest game came against UConn in November, when he caught six passes for 152 yards, including a school-record 95-yard TD. “He’s smooth, he’s got elite speed,” Packers college scout Matt Malaspina said. “A fine athlete. A good kid. … A very loose, athletic, long guy with speed.”

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