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Dorita worked on an assembly line in an automobile plant, often needing three city buses and as many as six hours for her round-trip commute. "A lot of the time Bart's oldest sister was his mama," says Dorita. And Dawnyell was the family enforcer, regularly punishing Bart by locking him in the dirt-floor basement and telling him that the flames in the ancient furnace were the gates of hell. "I was battle-tested by my sisters," says Bart. "It was nothing to walk past the gangs after those two."
At Southeastern High, Scott played both ways--running back and linebacker--on a 22-man team coached by an old school disciplinarian named Drake Wilkins, who kept a wooden paddle in his office and wasn't afraid to use it. "I had a lot of guys who were gang members, and they always had to prove they were the toughest man on the street," says Wilkins, 50, now the coach at Denby Tech in Detroit. "There were times when I had to take a stand."
Scott says he felt the paddle only once. Wilkins and assistant coach Reinard Davis recall Bart as a force of nature. "He went 110 percent on every snap and never came off the field," says Davis. "He was unbelievable."
More than 100 schools sent recruiting letters, but his low SAT score left Scott without a college as his senior year ended. By midsummer he had improved his test score enough to ensure eligibility, but most major schools had no scholarships left. Here came a lifeline. Scott was so impressive on the field during July workouts for a Michigan high school all-star game that one of the coaches, Bryan Masi, called an old friend, former Michigan State quarterback Dan Enos, an assistant coach at Southern Illinois.
"Bryan told me they've got this kid who is a hell of a football player," says Enos, now an assistant coach at his alma mater. "He asked if we might have a scholarship. For a player like that? Yeah, we had a scholarship."
Scott's career was nearly derailed again when he was suspended for the final six games of his junior season after a halftime altercation with defensive coordinator Michael Vite. The incident was triggered when Vite took offense to Scott's eating an apple during a tense locker room meeting. ("I'm not a big eater before games," says Scott. "I always eat fruit at halftime.")
Vite, now the defensive coordinator at Division III Guilford College, says, "Sometimes kids make bad decisions when they're young. It was a long time ago. Bart is a hell of an athlete and a hell of a kid, and he's made a lot of good decisions since then. I've got nothing but good things to say about him."
The Southern Illinois staff was fired after Scott's junior year, and new head coach Jerry Kill threw Scott another lifeline. "Some of the old coaches told us, you don't want this kid or that kid," says Kill, noting that Scott was one of those mentioned. "Bart played like he was on a mission for us, and he was a captain and leader."
Kill told several NFL teams that Scott could play in the league, but only Baltimore sent a scout to work him out. Joe Hortiz put Scott through an old school box drill, in which pressure-sensitive pads are placed on the ground and connected to an oversized, black stopwatch; the player runs from pad to pad, showing his quickness and reactions. After testing Scott, Hortiz excitedly called Ravens scouting director Phil Savage (now the Browns' general manager) and said, "This guy has the best numbers I've seen in two years." Baltimore's then Midwest scout T.J. McCreight watched tape and saw a whirling dervish who looked like an NFL player. Another lifeline. The Ravens issued team-wide orders to keep Scott's name a secret; three days after the draft, they signed him to a free-agent contract. "My signing bonus was $500," says Scott. "After taxes, $329.60. And I was an NFL player."
Scott was a special teams terror for three full seasons, but got few snaps in the regular defensive rotation until Oct. 31, 2005, when he replaced Lewis, who had gone down with a hamstring tear that would end his season. Scott has not been out of the starting lineup since, and before last season he signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract with a $6.5 million signing bonus, turning down a larger offer from Cleveland to stick with the team that first believed in him. On the field, he has evolved into that rare 3-4 inside linebacker--Lewis is another--who never leaves the field, even in the nickel and dime packages.