Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau talk about Urban Meyer's retirement and the bowl games between UM-Florida and MSU-Oregon. The Detroit News
While a handful of college football players looking toward next spring’s NFL Draft have opted not to play in their bowl games, Michigan State’s LJ Scott is taking a rather different path.
The senior running back was expected to not play again this season and return for a fifth, redshirt season with the Spartans after much of 2018 was spent dealing with a nagging ankle injury.
However, Scott made an about face earlier this week when he decided he would leave Michigan State after the season and enter the draft, something he nearly did after his junior season before deciding to come back to Michigan State as a senior.
The move to head for the NFL wasn’t exactly a shocking one, but in his statement, Scott surprised some when he said he intended to play in the Redbox Bowl on Dec. 31 when Michigan State takes on Oregon at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
“I think it makes a statement, first of all, in terms of how he feels about our football team,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said during the Redbox Bowl press conference Thursday afternoon in San Francisco.
It was following Michigan State’s game against Ohio State on Nov. 10 that Dantonio announced Scott intended to come back for a fifth season. It appeared to signal the end of the season for Scott, who first hurt his ankle in the second game of the season at Arizona State on Sept. 8. He missed the next four games, but returned Oct. 20 to play against Michigan and the next week against Purdue. But he sat out the last three games and, after the loss to Ohio State on Nov. 10, Dantonio said Scott had decided to not play another game and take advantage of a redshirt.
“It's one of those things — you have an opportunity for him to come back, get his degree,” Dantonio said then. “He wants to do that and get himself right to play his final season at Michigan State. So, that's the decision we made with three games left.”
However, as time passed, Scott continued to weigh his options.
As he said in the statement he released on Twitter Wednesday night, the injuries were a big reason he opted to, ultimately, head to the NFL.
“Having dealt with various humbling injuries during the 2018 regular season, I initially believed the best plan for me was to return to the Spartans as a Redshirt Senior next season,” Scott said in his statement. “As the season has drawn closer to an end, I’ve had time to properly reflect and discuss all of my options with my coaches and family to decide the absolute best course of action for me going forward.
"After a ton of thought, prayer, and careful consideration, I have decided to enter the 2019 NFL Draft as a senior.”
Dantonio said the decision wasn’t an easy one for Scott, and there was plenty of back and forth. At the end of the day, though, the Michigan State coach is happy he’ll have Scott back for one more game.
“I had conversations with him throughout. It sort of fluctuated back-and-forth as terms of what he was going to do,” Dantonio said. “I’m actually excited that he’s going to play, and he’ll bring something. He’s been a guy that’s been out pretty much most of the season, so we’ll look forward to his progress and his returning.
"It’s been all positive talk throughout the entire year.”
Scott led Michigan State in rushing each of his first three seasons but carried just 55 times this season for 180 yards and no touchdowns. He enters the bowl game with 2,771 career rushing yards and 25 touchdowns.
Scott is 10th all-time at Michigan State in rushing yards.
By not playing in the final four games, Scott should be relatively healthy by the time the Spartans and Ducks kick off at 3 p.m. on Dec. 31.
“He’s been practicing intermittently because he was sort of on the edge of whether to play or not, so he has been practicing and working out,” Dantonio said. “We’ve got time for him to get himself ready to go and, again, it will be a tremendous challenge for him and for everybody else involved here versus Oregon.”