If you were alert before the start of this February’s Super Bowl, you might have watched an Arlingtonian honored at the pre-game 50th anniversary ceremonies.
Waving a rare hello on current national television was retired NFL star Jake Scott, a veteran of the 1970s Miami Dolphins and the Washington Redskins who honed his pass interception skills at our own Washington-Lee High School.
Scott, a five-time Pro-Bowler who wearing number 13 helped the famous 1972 Dolphins achieve an undefeated season, was a safety and punt returner with a personality of southern nonchalance.
Today Scott, 70, helps run a charter fishing business in Hawaii. I reached him by phone in Georgia where he was visiting his elderly mother—a teachers union employee who brought teenaged Jake to Arlington in the early-60s after she and his father divorced.
“I was just a kid from Georgia who didn’t know much,” said Scott, who lived in two apartments in Buckingham neighborhood when he arrived as a 10th-grader. “It was a great, central area to live because you got exposure to so many different types of people, and because during high school the drinking age in Georgetown was only 18.”
Under W-L football coach John Youngblood, Scott played cornerback, first on J.V. and then varsity, though a broken arm caused him to miss six weeks. He participated in the legendary Old Oaken Bucket game against Alexandria rival George Washington High. “We had pretty good teams, Northern Virginia champions,” he recalled.
Pressed to dredge up memories, Scott recollected dating cheerleader Pam Ashton and killing time with Charlie Baker of W-L’s Class of ’63. More vivid are his remembrances of skipping homeroom and whiling away hours at Friendly’s Billiards on Washington Blvd. at Glebe Road. “More time with a pool cue than a book,” as he put it.
The result: his grades sunk so that he was no longer eligible for senior-year football. Hence his transfer to Bullis prep school in Potomac, Md. From there, after flirting with the Naval Academy, he won a football scholarship to the University of Georgia, where he would set records for interceptions and be inducted in its hall of fame.
Scott’s break into the NFL came after a stint in Canadian football and within three years, he would be named Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. During three years (1976-78) with the Redskins—he lived first at a Holiday Inn and then in quarterback Billy Kilmer’s basement in Reston.
Scott got tangled in shaky investments with some in the Koons auto dealer empire that went south, and his post-football career also included a four-month marriage. In the early 1980s, friends lured him to the beauties of Hawaii, where he was “adopted as the only white guy” by native Hawaiians on Kauai who play golf and run the fishing business.
Scott returns frequently to the mainland for coaching clinics at Georgia. He enjoyed the February reunion with fellow NFL MVP’s Larry Csonka, Len Dawson and Roger Staubach.
The interception king said he opted out of the players’ class action lawsuit challenging the league’s policy on concussions, though he plans to be tested. “I have pins in my shoulders, a replaced knee, a broken wrist that never healed and screws in my hand. It’s just part of the game,” he said. “If you play, you’re gonna get hurt.”
A squad of baby-boomer men who played Arlington Little League a half-century ago were recently trading emails containing old team photos.
Amid reminiscing about coaches and teammates who made good—or not—there emerged underreported proof of a national military figure’s local roots. Present for a 1967 All-Star Team portrait representing the old Arlington Motors was future Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal. He’s the one forced to resign in 2010 after Rolling Stone magazine reported his aides making unflattering comments about Vice President Biden.
McChrystal, now a consultant in Alexandria, spent two high school years at W-L before gaining entry to West Point. He had quite a career in special ops and as top commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan before he was replaced by another Arlingtonian, Gen. David Petraeus.