GREEN BAY – Mason Crosby noticed right away he was dealing with a different kind of punter.
Yes, the 6-foot-6 stature of JK Scott is hard to miss. Paired with a unique two-step drop where his plant leg never leaves the ground, the Packers’ rookie punter has drawn a lot of attention through the first week of camp due to his propensity for booting punts more than 50 yards that hang at 4.5-second clips in practice.
But it wasn’t Scott’s physical gifts that made an impression on Crosby, the second-longest tenured player on the Packers’ roster behind Aaron Rodgers.
What’s stuck with the 11-year veteran is how the 21-year-old Scott, with a few budding blond facial hairs barely pushing through his chin, carries himself.
“He’s a self-motivator. He doesn’t need anybody getting him started and getting him going,” Crosby said. “He has his routine and he’s further along than I feel most rookies are coming in, in terms of what their process is and how they handle a day-to-day schedule.”
Maybe that steadiness comes from his father, Kim, a Madison native who became a record-setting pole-vaulter at the University of Wisconsin. It also could be tied to how Scott dealt with the pressure of punting in front of 100,000 fans during his time at the University of Alabama.
From the beginning, the scene in Tuscaloosa never was too big for Scott. He remembers his first game as a freshman at Alabama and wondering in warmups if the big-game setting was “going to affect me?”
The answer was a resounding no. After trotting out for his first punt, Scott took one look at the line in front of him and felt at peace. It was just like practice. For the next four years, he was locked in an impenetrable zone of focus.
As Scott prepares to make his Packers’ preseason debut Thursday night against Tennessee, he’s maintained a similar mindset through the first 10 practices of training camp.
He looks the part of a rookie fifth-round pick who came to Green Bay with some buzz. He just doesn’t act like it.
“The coaches say, it doesn’t matter how you got here, (so) that takes that out of the equation,” Scott said. “For me, getting here, I don’t take anything for granted. (Just) be who you are and train the way you train. Trust your swing.”
Family and faith are key to Scott’s process. It keeps the rookie grounded and helps him keep perspective regardless of the outcome on the field. Presently, his wife, Sydney, is pregnant with the couple’s first child, a boy due in November.
A growing family has led to Scott and his wife forming an instant bond with Crosby and his wife, Molly, who have five children of their own. Along with helping the Scotts settle in Green Bay, the Crosbys have passed along tips and pointers on what to expect in parenthood.
These interactions still are sort of surreal to Scott. Growing up in Denver, Scott used to watch Crosby kick at the University of Colorado. His family’s deep Wisconsin roots also led Scott to track Crosby’s career after he was drafted by Green Bay in 2007.
“When I was drafted here, we figured it out, he was like 11 years old,” said Crosby, laughing. “When I was playing at Colorado, he was in elementary school watching. He’s followed me through my career, so it’s kind of a fun story. Now, him ending up here, his journey is just beginning.”
At the same time, Scott’s rise hasn’t been a 100-mile-per-hour race to the top. Recurring tendinitis in his knees almost caused Scott to give up football entirely after his sophomore year of college.
It led him to tweak his approach and start working with Birmingham physical therapist, Kevin Wilk, who helped Scott reverse the tissue degeneration causing him problems.
With healthy knees, Scott made one last adjustment, arguably his biggest adjustment, going into his senior year at Alabama to improve his hang time. It required Scott to change the height of his drop, but ultimately he improved his consistency on his way to first-team All-Southeastern Conference honors from the coaches.
Admittedly an unfinished product, Scott believes all of those experiences have hastened his transition to the NFL. While his game hasn’t required any major renovations, Scott is actively listening whenever special teams coordinator Ron Zook or assistant Maurice Drayton offers a suggestion.
“He’s all ears. He’s like a sponge,” Zook said. “Anything you tell him he wants to try to work on and get better. He knows he’s got a lot of work to do. But there’s no mistaking his God-given ability, and I think we just need to get him dialed in and get the direction and the pooch punts and all those different kinds of things.”
Crosby, going on his fourth new holder on field goals in four seasons, quickly has grown comfortable with Scott. According to Zook, Scott went as far as to buy a JUGS machine in the offseason to better prepare for the holding job.
The kicks and punts will start to matter when the Packers take the field Thursday against the Titans, but Scott feels he’s ready. Crosby can’t help but agree.
“I’m encouraged every day coming in and having a young punter like this,” Crosby said. “That challenge and that excitement, it refreshes me every day. Going on Year 12 here, sometimes it’s nice to have that little fresh life here in the building.”