It has not been a good year for George Scott. In the last 12 months, he has been through a knee operation, been arrested for drug possession, seen his diabetic mother have a foot amputated, pleaded no contest to two drug charges against him and, finally, flunked out of college.
But Tuesday night, hours after learning that he had been dismissed by the University of Maryland because he had not passed enough courses, the bulky tailback did not appear bitter or even unhappy as he discussed the disappointments of the past and his hopes for the future.
"I have no regrets about anything, really, except I wish I had put my mind to my studies a little bit more than I did," Scott said.
"Some things went down that shouldn't have, but you can't always control everything the way you want to. Being out of school just means I'm going to have to go the long way around to reach some of my goals. It doesn't mean I won't reach them, though.
As a high school junior in Inwood, N.Y., he had torn up a knee. College recruiters shied away. But when one of Claiborne's 1976 signees changed his mind and decided against attending Maryland, Claiborne took a chance on the 6-foot-1, 215 pounder.
Scott responded by filling in for Steve Atkins as a freshman and picking up 369 yards. Then, as a sophomore when Atkins was hurt, he rushed for 894 yards and six touchdowns, including a school-record 237 yards in one game.
"I think," Scott said bluntly, "that I probably did more in two years than most people do in four. No one expected me to do anything, but I showed them I could play."
Scott's best days appeared to be ahead of him when he reported last August. A preseason workout changed all that: another knee injury, another operation and the beginning of the nightmare that culminated Tuesday.
"I don't blame anyone or anything for what happened," said Scott, not a trace of bitterness in his voice. "I don't have a chip on my shoulder about what happened. I made some mistakes, I did some things wrong. I know that now.
"Right now, my first priority is finding a job so I can earn some money and get back into school. I want to get my degree. I found that out the hard way."
Scott's departure leaves Maryland extremely thin at running back. Claiborne refused to discuss Scott's situation while his court case was pending and wasn't in a mood to talk about him yesterday, either.
"I did talk to George, yes," he said. "But what we talked about is between us. It's nobody else's business. I hope things work out for him and he can come back to school."
Athletic Director Carl James, who came to the university just before Scott's injury, was disappointed, saying that Scott's failure was also the school's failure.
"Your goal is to see every athlete you recruit succeed, academically and athletically," he said. "Of course that isn't going to happen. But everytime something like this happens to an athlete there's a sense of failure on everyone's part.
Hopefully, George will learn from this experience and, in the long run, benefit from it. Hopefully, we'll learn from it, too. Maybe next time we'll work a little harder with someone like George to make sure academics are emphasized and his time is budgeted properly."
Scott, 21, said he is trying right now to be optimistic and put his recent experience behind him.
I've never been very religious but I think this may be God's way of telling me that I have to change, that I'm not doing things right," he said. "The hardest thing for me to do is understand what's gone on and what I have to do as a result.
"Once I can do that, I know I'll be all right. If I wanted to, I could sit around and be bitter, say it wasn't my fault, that I wasn't treated fairly.
"But that wouldn't accomplish anything. The press had a job to do and it did it. The same with the courts. Coach Claiborne has always been fair with me since I've been here. When we talked tonight, he tried to tell me to stay away from the wrong kind of people and work hard. That's all I can ask from him."
As for football, Scott says it may be part of his future, but is not a priority right now. "I'll love football for as long as I live," he said. "But I love playing touch football in an open field as much as I love playing in Byrd Stadium.
"Sure I'll miss being with the guys and getting psyched up every Saturday. But I have other things to take care of which are more important than football right now.
"I'm going to stay down here and work, but I also want to be in close contact with my family; that's important to me. So is my degree.
"If I can come back and play football, that would be great. But if not, that's okay, too.
"I know I'll miss the guys. I feel very close to everyone on this team. I really do. I love all of them. We've been through a lot together. We're a lot closer than any fraternity I know of. I can easily look any one of them in the eye and tell them that I love them and I'm going to miss them.
"But I'll be around. I'm still a Maryland fan. If I can pat the guys on the back and encourage them every once in awhile, I'll still feel like I'm a part of it. That will make leaving a little easier."
Scott could come back and play for Maryland in the 1980 season. But Tuesday, as he prepared to leave Ellicott Hall, the dormitory where all scholarship athletes live at Maryland, football seemed a long way from his mind.
"My main goal right now is to stay in a positive frame of mind and not get down on myself," he said. "A lot of guys get hung up on football and think it's the only thing they can do with their life. Take that away and they fall apart.
"I don't plan to be like that. I want to find something else and try to be the best at it. I'm not ashamed of anything I've done. I'm 21 and I've got a lot to learn.
"But I've also got time to try and make things better for myself. There's no reason why I can't get my act together. If I put my mind to it, I know I'll do it. And as of right now. I'm putting my mind to it."