Cincinnati wide receiver Tyler Scott has been one of the biggest risers at his position in the 2023 NFL Draft in recent months.
The former track star has some of the most electric tape in this year’s class, showcasing the vertical speed needed to take the top off of defenses and the agility needed to make would-be tacklers look silly. He stepped into a bigger role for the Bearcats’ offense in 2022 and figures to be one of the best big-play weapons not just coming out of the Group of 5, but in all of college football.
Scott spoke with Windy City Gridiron about making the college football playoff, his close relationship with teammate and fellow wide receiver Tre Tucker, knowing your role, and more.
JI: You were a part of some special Cincinnati teams. What was your favorite moment from your time there?
TS: I’d probably say being able to be a part of that playoff run [in 2021], being able to be the first Group of 5 team ever to make the college football playoffs, going through all the ups and downs, just the journey to get there, and just being a part of something special, that was from years before. Being able to continue to climb that mountain, losing the year before to Georgia in the Peach Bowl [after the 2020 season], cracking the top 10 in the following year, going through the season, go through ups and downs, and just have so many different adversities, and ultimately continue to win...at the end, we had an opportunity to play for a national championship.
JI: You and Tre Tucker have known each other since you guys were kids, and now you’re exiting Cincinnati at the same time and entering the NFL Draft. What does it mean to be going through this process with him?
TS: Man, it just means a whole lot. We grew up together running track. We actually never really talked about playing college football together, when we were young. We knew eventually we’ll get to this stage, and if you told us we’d be at Cincinnati together, we wouldn’t even believe it, at the time, coming up. Being able to share this field, especially last year, being able to start together — he’s in the slot, I’m outside — and just being able to share the field, it meant a lot, and being able to go through a lot of the same journey, going through all the ups and downs. We’re like brothers; if he feels lower back pain, I feel lower back pain. If he feels tightness, I’m tight. We go through everything together. We ended up signing with the same agent, and then ended up training together and stayed at the same spot down in Tampa, Florida. Then, on top of that, they put us together in the same room, when we were at the Combine. It just means the world to me to be able to go through this process with him.
JI: Have you ever thought about what it would be like if you guys got drafted by the same team? You don’t have control over it, but imagine how cool that would be.
TS: It would just bring the best out of both of us. We know how to motivate each other. We find accountability in each other, so being able to be in the same locker room would be huge and definitely a dream come true. Just the thought of that gets me excited. But, as you said, we don’t have too much control over that, but that would work for me, as well.
JI: Your speed obviously stands out on tape, but you’re also a good route runner. Can you speak to how you can use pure speed to your advantages, and if you face any hurdles as a technician because of that speed?
TS: First and foremost, I just want to give credit to my [wide] receivers coach — who was at Cincinnati while I was there, who’s now at Wisconsin — Mike Brown. He just helped me all the way. Coming into college, I had never played receiver. I’d played running back from when I was 8, all the way to my senior year in high school. When I first got to college, it was kind of brand new to me, and so I had to transition into learning how to really see defenses. Playing running back, it’s like 8 guys in a box, and everything is pretty instinctive. Then, the transition to go to receiver, we’re looking at more of triangles, less people out there. You see two to three guys, you’re looking at different keys, and things of that nature. It’s also more of a mental game, as well, because you have to be pretty much a quarterback out there, as well, because he’s seeing the same thing that you’re seeing. Pre-snap, it could be something, and then post-snap, you got safeties moving down, the linebackers moving out or in, players moving all over the place. You got to really have good eye discipline on, as well as the quarterback, so you can make the right reads and make the right cuts and run the right routes. Some routes have different conversion [points]. Those type of things are kind of difficult at times to navigate, but I think that’s what makes the game fun.
JI: Some guys just have speed and don’t know what to do with it, but listening to you speak and watching your tape, you’re not one of those guys.
TS: Yeah, you talk about [knowing] what to do with it, I think the biggest thing is just knowing when to use it, and knowing that you don’t have to go 100% speed all the time. You just have to make the DB feel that kind of speed, have that intimidation. Sometimes what I’ll do is, on plays where it’s a run play to the opposite side of the field, I like to just run off and run a deep route and just run off the line and just sprint past the DB, just so you can feel my speed. [I] set a tone for the game, just say, “okay, this is what you’re going against, this is the type of speed that you’re going to be feeling throughout the game”. That may cause DBs to respect you and move back a little bit.
I’ve seen quite a bit — during my course at Cincinnati — with guys wanting to play off so many times and bring safeties over top. Especially in the back end of the season, [I was] seeing a lot of Cover 2s and things of that nature. Guys were left on islands out there, so just like I said, [it’s helpful] just knowing when to use [that speed], knowing how and when to change gears, knowing that you don’t really have to go 100% speed all the time, and just knowing when to turn that gear on and when to turn it off.
JI: You took on a bigger role in 2022 and generally just put up better numbers each year. What were some of the things you prioritized in the offseason to make that jump?
TS: The previous year, during that playoff run, I finally earned that starting spot over at the ‘X’ wide out position. At the time, I humbled myself when I came through the door at Cincinnati, but I had humbled myself even more being the starter by realizing what was around me, realizing what was going on around me, realizing the players that were here and it was kind of their time. You had Desmond Ridder, you had Alec Pierce, you had Jerome Ford, you had two great tight ends. It was just kind of realizing what was going on around me, and just kind of knowing that it’s just for me to do my job. [I’ve] been a reliable target. I may not be the guy that’s gonna get 50-plus catches in a season, but I might be the guy that [gets you] that big play spark or just be a reliable target when everything else is locked out. I had stat lines last year where I had one catch, one touchdown, and that was all that was needed from me, like I said: just knowing my role and doing my job my sophomore year.
Coming into my junior year, [I knew] that we lost some production to the draft and knowing that we’re gonna need an extra guy to step up in the receiver room, and I wanted to be that guy. I had been through the fire my sophomore year in all the big games and all the high pressure situations. They prepared me; I was around a lot of great leaders and a great group of guys. I was prepared and ready to take that next step as kind that leader, that coach and receiver, My junior year, whenever somebody needed a play, I was the guy to call on. [I] just give credit to Coach Brown and realized what was going around me. Those were kind of the two factors.
JI: What was your experience like at the Combine?
TS: It was just surreal, really. You grew up watching it every single year, and you wish one day to be a part of it, and to finally be walking those halls and being able to see Lucas Oil Stadium, being a part of something that only 300 guys get invited to, it’s an honor. Then, you just go through the process, and honestly, it’s a lot. It’s a grind. The whole week is a grind: so many different interviews, and media and in medicals. But through it all, I’m just grateful for the opportunity just to be there and to be able to share my story of who I am and where I come from and what drives me to be great. I just take it all with gratitude.
JI: Were you satisfied with your performance?
TS: I’m never really satisfied. I wish I could have jumped a little higher, maybe a little farther. I had great numbers, but...I could have ran a little bit faster. It was nowhere near what I was expecting, which I’ll be running it at my Pro Day (EDITOR’S NOTE: Scott ran a 4.32 at his Pro Day on Mar. 23 after running a 4.44 at the Combine). Overall, like I said, it’s just more [being] grateful just to be there and have the opportunity to compete and feel like I belong. I’m just determined in everything that I do, but [I’m] obviously gonna be redoing some things, or at least the [40-yard dash]. I’m excited for this process and what comes next.
JI: How do you spend your free time outside of football?
TS: Honestly, I don’t really do too much. As I’ve gotten older, and starting to come into just a little bit more financially, I’ve gotten into finances. I’ve just been really invested in the world of finance. I like studying those type of things. I love spending time with my girlfriend — going on two years now, being together — we love to go to the movies. I love watching movies and binge-watching shows, things of that nature. I love candles, and working out — that’s another thing — I love working out and finding different ways that I can improve my body. I don’t really do too much. I’m known as the old head of the Cincinnati football team...I’m the one that you call when it’s 4 in the morning and somebody’s drunk or plastered and needs to get picked up. I’m that guy to call. I’m kind of the oldhead/mature one of the group but, but I still like to watch movies, listen to church sermons and just relax.
JI: What’s the last movie you’ve watched?
TS: The last movie I’ve watched is definitely Rocky. I’ve seen it a million times. To be specific, it was Rocky III. I mean, I love Rocky. It’s probably my favorite movie of all time, favorite series movies of all time. It’s just so well put together.
JI: Can you speak a bit to the importance of faith in your life? I’m a man of faith myself.
TS: It just starts with my family, my mom and dad, what they’ve instilled in me: the faith, you as far as our beliefs and upbringing. As I got older, I found my own journey, I walked with Christ and eventually gave my life to Christ. [It was] a pretty young age in my teens, and [it’s] the pedestal of everything that I’ve done. The way I think, the way I talk, the way I walk, it all stems from my faith in God. It’s just a catalyst of how I think and how I move. It’s been number one, as far as my life is concerned.
JI: It’s great to have that center of life like that.
TS: It gives you a foundation of who you are, because you’re gonna come across a lot of different temptations, and just a lot of different things, a lot of different beliefs, a lot of different views. In your life, just having a solid foundation, knowing who you serve first and foremost before anybody else — before any coach, before any prestigious figure, any type of title — just knowing who the ultimate title is, [it’s the] most important thing for me.
JI: Let’s say I’m an NFL general manager. What would I be getting if I drafted you to my team?
TS: I think the number one thing you touched on is the speed. You’re gonna get a lot of speed out of me, someone who’s going to stretch the field, put pressure on DBs, get a safety out the box, which opens up the run game, as well. You’re just gonna get someone who’s gonna be a game-changer, a playmaker. The crazy stat when I was at Cincinnati, I averaged like 43 yards per touchdown catch. [That’s] the type of guy you’re gonna get, as well as someone who’s very polished on special teams. During my sophomore campaign, as Cincinnati I started [at] receiver, but I also earned the starting position at gunner, coming off the edge and rushing the punter: often times, all in the same season. I continued to do that this past year, as well. You’re gonna get someone who’s very polished on special teams, [and] was part of the top-5 punt team the last few years that I started as a gunner, as far as yards is concerned. You’re gonna get someone who makes the impact on special teams, and someone who knows their role and wants to do their role and just want to be part of a winning team and have an impact.