Former Ridgeland football star Scott gives back as social worker
If you asked Wesley Scott five years ago where he thought he’d be in life, without hesitation he would have said playing in the NFL. But instead Scott finds himself working at Jasper County’s Department of Social Services, his football career in the past.
Scott, a Ridgeland native, graduated from Ridgeland High School in 2012 and played football at NCAA Division I FBS Miami (Ohio).
He had a strong freshman season playing defensive end and moved to the offensive line his sophomore season. At the end of the 2014 season he tore his ACL and missed his entire junior season.
Scott never made a full recovery, but instead suffered another ligament tear in his knee. He ended up playing 10 games on the offensive line his senior season in 2015.
Before his injury, Scott’s dream of playing in the NFL was alive and well. But unable to make a full recovery, he was forced to accept defeat.
“I had to accept the fact — I didn’t want to live a lie,” said Scott, who in 2011 competed in the prestigious Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas. “All I knew was football, so I had to figure out, what do I do now?”
Scott finished his undergraduate career with a major in family studies and minor in gerontology. Initially, he wanted to work as a fitness instructor at a nursing home, and still does, but he felt he could have a more profound impact working as a social worker, connecting people with desperately needed resources.
“Initially I was looking at jobs in Maryland and Cincinnati, but I wanted to be back with my family and do something that hits close to home,” Scott said. “I can drive five minutes out of Ridgeland and see negativity around. I’m blessed to get this job and be giving back to my community. I’m going to go extra hard.”
Working 9 a.m to 5 p.m. in a cubicle, filing paperwork, and making visits to impoverished families was not how Scott saw himself giving back to Jasper.
“I thought I would come back and financially give back. I’m still giving back with resources to help people with similar situations to my own growing up,” Scott said. “My intent started out different, but I ended up doing it (giving back); it’s just different than how I expected.”
Scott still looks like a football player. He’s 6-foot-5, 260 pounds and constantly wears a big ear-to-ear grin. He’s managed to find purpose and happiness outside of football. Every time he receives a drawing from a child in a family that he works with, he immediately pins it to his bulletin board to remind him why he chose this path.
As a social worker, Scott works with families to help lift them out of distress; often he finds himself interacting with children who leave him with vivid impressions.
“‘I’m the one to help you,’ I tell the kids. I want to put everything back intact — fix the problem,” Scott said.
He glanced at his collage of drawings, which are tokens of the kids’ appreciation.
“A child in distress remembers you,” Scott said. “Being able to see people turn around, it’s a beautiful thing. I know all about setbacks. I wasn’t able to come back from mine. They may look different, but I can relate. My injury put me in a dark place — I was a teen with a shot at The League, but it expanded my mental and physical knowledge. I’m glad my injury happened because it taught me what life is really about.”
Scott also gave back to the community last October, when he volunteered at the evacuation shelter in Ridgeland during Hurricane Matthew. Scott worked 12-hour shifts to help ensure everybody at the shelter was comfortable.
He might not find himself suiting up for a game, but Scott takes his football mentality and applies it to each of his cases. Football still runs through his veins. He’s worked for DSS for just less than a year, and the demands of his job limit his free time, but he’s started reaching out to the football programs around the county, including RHHS. He plans to attend games this season and hopefully volunteer.
“Football is where my heart is,” Scott said.
For now, Scott plans to continue his work with DSS. He’s contemplated pursuing a physical training certification, but he’s comfortable giving back to families in Jasper County.