The news of Jake Scott’s death came last week in a text from Las Vegas Motor Speedway President Chris Powell.
The All-Pro safety for the 1972 undefeated Miami Dolphins and MVP of Super Bowl VII apparently had fallen and hit his head. It was not a normal way to die, even for one 75 years old.
But as Scott revealed to me four years ago in an interview during an NHRA weekend at LVMS, he was not exactly normal himself, at least not in the way others would define it.
It was Powell who told me Scott was up in the suites, drinking beer. The LVMS boss said he had agreed to talk. That was a bigger upset than the Jets beating the Colts in Super Bowl III.
The first man to make No. 13 famous for the Dolphins said it was only the second interview he had done since his playing days.
Scott was the Howard Hughes of football, with the exception he kept his fingernails trimmed. He hadn’t fallen off the planet since being traded to the Redskins after a falling out with Don Shula, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Scott lived in three places after football: the mountains of Colorado, the Florida Keys and Hanalei on the north shore of Kauai, the last of the Hawaiian Islands to be inhabited. You may recall that Hanalei — or at least a mythical land called Honah Lee — is where Puff, the Magic Dragon, lived by the sea in the Peter, Paul and Mary folk song. But when it came to frolicking in autumn mist, nobody did it better than Scott.
The population of Hanalei was 267. It is 266 since Scott fell and hit his head. Judging from some of the stories he told me and Dave Hyde, a reporter from the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who was first to track him down, those who work the taro and sugarcane fields are sure going to miss him.
“In the last state. On the last island. Down the last road. At the last speck of a no-stoplight town before the United States drops into the Pacific Ocean,” wrote Hyde in 2006 about where he finally found the former Georgia and Miami ball hawk who made the Dos Equis guy seem no more interesting than the accountant who prepares your tax return.
Scott did not mention pilfering two of Billy Kilmer’s passes in the Super Bowl the day we talked. He only spoke of the game briefly and toward the end of our conversation, which started when the sportsman cars hit the track and didn’t end until the pros in the Nitro divisions returned.
The reason Scott was sitting in the suites, drinking Powell’s beer, is because he knew Chad Head, the NHRA Funny Car driver, and Jim Head, Chad’s dad, a former Funny Car driver himself and then his son’s crew chief. The Heads took Scott fishing once, and that’s all it took for them to become fast friends.
This Bud’s for him
Scott said he tackled Jim Braxton of the Buffalo Bills three times in one game. Or so he was told. He said he suffered a concussion trying to take down O.J. Simpson’s lead blocker. Could that have had something to do with his Jimmy Buffett lifestyle?
This was a man who blew out more than one flip-flop while stepping on a pop top.
Supposedly when he was an All-American at Georgia, he drove his motorcycle over the top of Stegeman Coliseum, where the Bulldogs play basketball. He never married but was said to be a ladies’ man by no less an authority than Joe Namath. He once had the idea to relieve himself in the Arctic Ocean, so it was said he spent four months in a motor home in Alaska trying to get close enough.
I tried to steer him back to those back roads. It was more futile than Billy Kilmer trying to hit Roy Jefferson with a wobbly pass in Super Bowl VII. Scott resisted, saying only that most of what I’ve heard probably was true.
He was so protective of his privacy that he would not allow Hyde to take his picture when they met.
I thought I had best try to take one surreptitiously or nobody would have believed that we had actually spoken, for getting a photo of Scott was akin to getting one of Bigfoot.
In mine, he is almost in focus.
While some pictures are worth a thousand words, this one was limited to 145 calories. Jake Scott is holding a can of ice-cold Budweiser in his hand that somebody else paid for. He’s not looking at the camera, but he’s smiling, as if he didn’t have a care in the world.