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When Bentley called a press conference in late January to announce that he was Tallahassee-bound, a desperate Tony Yelovich phoned Bentley's school to try to stop it. "The kid's confused," said Yelovich, a Notre Dame assistant who had spent three years cultivating Bentley.
The kid was, in fact, thinking more clearly than he had in years. Ever since Scott was a fourth-grader booting 35-yard field goals, his father, who had lettered in baseball and basketball at Notre Dame, had been steering him toward South Bend. Finally, two days before the press conference, Bob had told Scott to follow his heart. "If my dad hadn't gone to Notre Dame," says Scott, "I would have committed two weeks earlier."
Who can blame Bob for trying? As a six-year-old soccer player in a youth league in Tulsa, Scott sent so many balls rocketing into the faces of other boys that their parents suspected him of doing it on purpose. When Scott was 12 and his brother, Chris, was 14, the Bentleys moved to Denver, where Scott tried out for a local youth soccer team. He got into his first game with three minutes left in the first half, scored three goals and kicked another ball so hard that it knocked the goalie unconscious.
As a ninth-grader at Regis, Scott beat out a senior for placekicker on the football team. But the team went 0-10, and the next year Scott transferred to Overland, a perennial powerhouse. In the second game of his sophomore season he kicked field goals of 50 and 52 yards. But he did more than just kick; Scott also platooned at cornerback as a sophomore, played free safety as a junior and quarterbacked the team as a senior.
Bentley began to be courted by college coaches in his sophomore year. Yelovich was among the earliest to work on him. "When I was a sophomore, I told him, 'I'm your kicker,' " says Bentley. By the time he was a senior, Bentley had backed away from that promise. He told Yelovich that "it looks good" and that he was "leaning toward" Notre Dame—which, until he visited South Bend and Tallahassee, he was.
The Notre Dame visit, in early December, got off on the wrong foot. Craig Hentrich, who had kicked for the Irish the previous four seasons, told Bentley of the easy time in store for him. "He told me he and the other kickers would sometimes bring a barbecue down to the lower field and make food," says Bentley.
He and Hentrich went to a bar. Though Bentley does not drink, he doesn't judge those who do, and he expects that courtesy to be returned. It wasn't. Though Bentley admired the beer-downing capacity of some Irish linemen—"These guys would just drink right out of the pitcher," he says—some of those players ridiculed him for his refusal to imbibe. Bentley asked himself, Do I need this for four years?
After a training-table breakfast that included the renowned ND-monogrammed waffles, Bentley got a tour of the campus during a driving rainstorm. He opted not to go out Saturday night and was awakened at 2:30 a.m. by the retching of another recruit, who was in the bathroom retasting the evening's lager.
Late that afternoon Bentley had met with Holtz, who was distracted by the Army-Navy game on the TV in his office. Holtz told Bentley not to worry about his punting average; a "pooch punter" would take short punts. ("Can you believe that?" says Bob Bentley. "He's telling a placekicker with 50-plus-yard range that he'd rather pooch-punt than kick field goals!")
When Scott didn't commit on the spot, Holtz pressed him. "What do you want out of college, son?" Holtz asked. Bentley said he wanted a healthy social environment, strong academics and the starting kicker's job. "Then we're all set with you, right?" said Holtz. "We've got everything you're looking for." Bentley knew a hard sell when he heard one—his old man once owned 40% of a car dealership. Scott dug his heels in, telling Holtz, "I've still got four visits to make."