By: Kurt Johnson
When Hurricane High senior wrestler Brian Scott walked off the mat after pinning Keanyn Zundel of Bear River in the Utah state Class 3A 220-pound state title match in 2012, no one realized it would be his last athletic competition.
Just a few months later, the three-time state wrestling champion and three-sport star from Southern Utah was diagnosed with leukemia. The 2011 Deseret News 3A football MVP had plans to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints before playing linebacker at Southern Utah University until his life took a sudden turn.
On January 14, 2014, Scott passed away after a 15-month battle with the cancer that changed the course of his life, but never changed who he was. His high school football coach, Chris Homer, related a story from the 2011 high school all-star football game to describe Brian.
“We coached the all-star game that year, me and my staff,” Homer said. “He’s kind of legend, a three-time state wrestling champion, MVP of 3A in football and he won two or three track state championships as well. When we got to the all-star game, kids would come up to us and say, ‘That’s Brian Scott?’ He was big and strong, but he was always so laid back.
“He had this kind of amazing perspective on life. He would care when he needed to care but in the meantime, I would always say, ‘You remind me of a Southern California surfer.’ Not saying he wasn’t a hard worker, but he was full of perspective and he loved life, he loved people. He was a special kid for sure, but he was kind of over-the-top laid back, not what a lot of people would picture him to be. He’d always say ‘relax coach, don’t worry.'”
You would think that strong, young, athletic young men who go about doing good are supposed to live long lives. It did not work out that way for Brian Scott, but he packed so much goodness into the 20 years he was given on earth.
“It was just the start of football season (when he was first diagnosed) and just the year before we had won the state championship, he was the 3A MVP and it was such a huge thing for our small community,” Homer said. “We’re still that one-high school community so our football success was such a huge deal. There was not anyone who didn’t know who Brian was at that point.
“Now that he’s gone, someone said, it’s hard to believe that Superman…they found his kryptonite. That’s kind of what it felt like. How could this kid at 220 pounds and 6-1 or 6-2 have this happen to him? He had everything going. Throughout the whole process, except maybe that last week or two, I think we all thought he was going to pull through somehow because of his physical stature, maybe more than anything.”
Amazing Young Man
But as those who know him best look back on his life, they lose count of the number of lives he touched and the impact he had on teammates, coaches, family and friends.
“I think one of the stories that came up was that one of the smaller kids in his class was getting picked on and he made sure that didn’t happen anymore,” said former Hurricane High wrestling coach Kerry Prince. “That’s the kind of kid he was. He just kind of looked out for other kids.”
But it was more than that. Brian was a leader in so many ways and his kindness was contagious.
“He changed the culture of how we treat our teammates,” Homer said. “It’s so easy for older kids to haze younger kids, but he didn’t do that, and therefore it was considered not cool on our team.
“He had such a quiet, strong presence. If it was unacceptable to him, people just didn’t do it. That can creep in pretty fast to a program and I’m not saying it crept in really fast, but there’s more of it now than when he was in our program.
“He kind of created what we all want, a family-type of dynamic where there’s a lot of love in the program and you hope as a coach that every kid gets treated with respect. I think Brian assured that happened during his two or three years as a leader in our program.”
Even when he made mistakes, and even with people he barely knew, his good heart was apparent and he always wanted to make things right. Coach Homer talks about Brian as one of those kids who was comfortable in the front of the bus, hanging out with the coaches. Because of that, he and Brian shared some special moments, and he learned a lot about this young man from what he witnessed.
“I think it was his senior year, we were at a wrestling meet,” Homer said. He was kind of a hero of ours. Even in high school, he was just one of those kids that everybody loved and he didn’t big-time anybody. He was just incredibly humble.
“He was going to wrestle a kid one night in a dual, and he was so much better than him. His teammates were on him and asking, ‘Hey, what are you going to do to this kid?’ Somebody suggested that he do this one move called the milkshake, which is kind of a demeaning move and it basically just shows your dominance over the person. He did it and it was really easy.
“I remember all of his teammates in the stands were cheering, giving high fives, slaps on the back and everything. He came over to me and he said, ‘Coach, I really wish I wouldn’t have done that. I feel horrible about doing that to that kid.’ I could tell he was mad at himself for kind of giving in to the peer pressure.
“He didn’t know this, but I watched him after the meet was over and he went and grabbed this kid and he put his arm around him. I don’t know what was said, but I believe I know what was said. He apologized to that kid. You know, he didn’t have to do that, but he did, and I think Brian Scott, the person, is summed up for me in that story.”
His brother remembers Brian for his calm demeanor that was a constant in all areas of his life.
“He was a little different (than the other siblings),” said Kenny Scott. “My wife made a comment the other day, that I had never noticed, about Brian. He was never mad. He was always just in the same mood. If something was really bothering him, you would never know because he was always the same – day in and day out. Happy, always.”
Brian Scott dominated on the football field, on the wrestling mat and even when he was throwing the discus. Kenny says that he was amazed at the way his brother approached his sports, not with nerves, but with the same calmness he brought to everything else he did.
“Sometimes I wished he would have been a little nervous, but he never was,” Kenny said. “He could just go out from a nap and wrestle a semifinal match at state and it was no big deal. Maybe he was just that good that he did not get nervous about stuff. It was just a wrestling match to him, that’s all it was. He would wrestle his older brother Dennis all the time when he was growing up, and it didn’t matter if it was a state championship match or just wrestling Dennis on the front lawn or something.”
His wrestling coaches noticed the same lack of nerves, even when things got tough in the biggest matches of his career.
“He was wrestling a match at the all-stars his senior year,” Prince said. “The kid caught him in a throw and Brian was losing going into the last round. Brian just kept sticking with it and finally he caught him and beat him. He didn’t get rattled. That was just the kind of kid he was. Plus, he was the strongest kid you ever seen in your life. We had him wrestle heavyweights and he could just pick heavyweights up off the ground.”
Kenny had first-hand experience with the physical dominance possessed by this young man who some have called a “gentle giant.”
“His junior year, I went in to wrestling practice because he wanted a little more competition,” Kenny said. “I figured I would go in and wrestle him and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. After, I thought that was as much competition as I wanted after high school. He was so strong, just bone-crushing strong. He could manhandle you.”
Strength was one of the noteworthy characteristics of Brian Scott, the football player. Homer shared a fact he felt was unknown to many people, as most were familiar with Brian Scott the dominant ball carrier. Brian was actually recruited to SUU primarily as a linebacker.
But it was on the offensive side of the ball where, as a senior, he willed his team to its first-ever state championship at the end of the 2011 season.
“We played Spanish Fork in a semifinal game that ended 38-35,” Homer recalled. “As coaches, we talked a lot about that game over the years. Some of our coaches are guys that have been around for 30 or so years. They say that may have been the most impressive performance they’ve ever seen in a game.
“Spanish Fork kept scoring quick, and we’d just give him the ball. If I think of one game that just describes Brian, it would be that Spanish Fork game. And then the championship game in the snow was big too. He was really banged up in that game, but we just kept giving it to him and he decided he was going to will us to that victory. We had nothing to do with it that day, we were just smart enough to give him the ball.”
Coach Prince was also a fan of Brian, the football star. He saw the same characteristics when Scott was on the gridiron that made him impossible to beat on the wrestling mat.
“As far as I’m concerned, Brian Scott is the best athlete we’ve ever had at Hurricane High School,” Prince said. “He’s the one on the football team that they couldn’t stop. He had a great team that he played with and they all played as a team, but he was kind of the ramrod. He could always get a first down. On fourth-and-three, you might as well go for it, no matter what, because Brian’s going to get three yards, and probably eight.”
Even knowing that the end of his life on this earth was near, Brian Scott chose to take the positive approach. He was the one who made sure everyone knew it was going to be okay.
“He had a good attitude towards it,” Kenny said. “He just felt it was something he had to do before he moved on. His last few weeks, he was miserable as far as his health, but he was still just making us all laugh. He was playing music on his laptop and making faces at us. He couldn’t talk at the time, and it was really hard to communicate, but he was really good at making us all look past what was really going on. That was just kind of the way he was, thinking of others other than himself.”
Coach Homer spent a lot of quality time with Brian during the final few weeks before he passed away.
“For a long time, they said there was nothing we can do,” Homer said. “I know he was in pain, you could just tell things were incredibly painful. He stayed the same for a long time, and then I think he decided he was ready. One of his brothers talked at the funeral about going in for a blood transfusion on the day he passed away, and he said he was ready. That night, it pretty much happened just after midnight. I think he needed to decide he was ready. I think he wanted to be around for Christmas and stuff like that.”
Brian Scott was a tremendous athlete, but so much more importantly, Brian Scott was an amazing person. During the 20 years he spent sharing his gifts with those who were fortunate enough to cross his path, he made a huge difference, and it is those moments for which he is most remembered.
A week before he passed, Homer was in Brian’s hospital room for one last visit. What was the last thing his hero, Brian Scott, said to him?
“It was more of a look,” Homer said. “He’d lost so much weight at that time, his eyes were dark. Every time I left, even though he couldn’t talk, he told me he loved me and I was able to say I love him. That’s the most simple thing, but it meant the most too.
“He would really look in your eyes and you just knew he loved you. I got to be really close to the family and those sincere heartfelt ‘I love yous’ are just something I’ll never forget.”