Penn State running back Austin Scott is lashing out at Joe Paterno, saying the Nittany Lions' legendary coach never gave him a chance to salvage his place on the team after he was charged with rape earlier this month.
Scott, one of the greatest high school football players in Lehigh Valley history, also told a newspaper that his life has been ''in a shambles'' and he fears the allegations have cost him any chance at a professional football contract.
The 22-year-old Parkland High School alumnus has maintained his innocence since being charged with raping a woman in his campus apartment during the early morning hours of Oct. 5.
He said Paterno never wanted to hear his side of the story. Instead, Scott said, the coach quickly suspended him rather than giving him the same consideration given to other players who ran into legal trouble.
''He decided that I was at the bar drinking two nights before a game and that was not the case,'' Scott told the Philadelphia Daily News on Sunday, a day before a judge issued a gag order stifling any further public comment from those involved in the case.
Paterno has declined to comment on the case since suspending Scott earlier this month.
Others from the Lehigh Valley who have played for Penn State said they don't think Paterno has done anything wrong.
''I'm sure Coach had his reasons for the decision that he's made,'' said former Nittany Lions fullback Mike Cerimele, now director of Velocity Sports Performance in South Whitehall Township. ''He has every right to make a decision. He's made that program what it is.''
Keith Dorney, an Emmaus High School graduate who was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame for his play at Penn State in the 1970s, also defended Paterno.
''One aspect of Coach Paterno is that he treats everyone fairly,'' Dorney said, ''but he also treats everybody as an individual.''
Others may have been allowed to keep playing while dealing with legal troubles, Dorney said, but Paterno probably considered several factors -- including past conduct and the severity of the charges -- in deciding what to do with Scott.
Because of the seriousness of the allegations and the attention on the football team, Dorney said, ''Coach Paterno might not have had any other choice.''
Scott, who's free under $50,000 unsecured bail, remains a student at Penn State.
Lawyers in the case spent days sniping at each other.
When The Morning Call reported Friday that Scott's accuser made similar accusations in 2003 against a Moravian College student who was later acquitted, Scott's lawyer, John P. Karoly Jr. of South Whitehall, called the woman ''pathological.'' Prosecutors, in turn, accused Karoly of trying to intimidate the woman.
The barbs stopped Monday when a Centre County judge issued the gag order.
A day before the order was approved, Scott, his mother and stepfather gathered at Karoly's office.
Scott told the Daily News he has spent the time since being charged in the case wondering how his life changed so drastically and how any chance of a possible NFL career might be gone.
''I went to bed with a clear conscience and woke up the next day -- my life was in a shambles,'' Scott said. ''I was like, 'What? I'm supposed to be going to class, getting ready for a game. Instead I'm off the team and being accused of rape. All I keep thinking is, 'How did I get here?'''
The running back expressed disappointment about his prospects for an NFL career.
''There's still a chance, but it's like everything is gone,'' he said. ''All the stuff I had going for me, toward a best shot of getting in the NFL, is gone now.''
Because of the gag order, Assistant District Attorney Lance Marshall declined to comment to the Daily News. E-mails sent to Scott's accuser by the newspaper went unreturned.
The Associated Press and Morning Call reporters contributed to this story.