When Freddie Scott considered his college options two years ago as an accomplished high school receiver and son of the former Baltimore Colt of the same name, he had several intriguing choices.
There was Big Ten kingpin Michigan, which was just 45 minutes from his home in Southfield, Mich.
There was national power Miami, a mother lode for the pro passing game.
There was Purdue, which projected him as a starter in his freshman season.
And there was Penn State, where, according to legend, quarterbacks sometimes become linebackers and receivers almost always become accountants.
That Scott chose Penn State is testimony to his self-confidence and the tranquilness of Happy Valley.
"Although Penn State traditionally is known for running the ball, you still have to throw it sometimes," said Scott, 19.
Five games into his college career, Scott, who redshirted last season, is certain he made the right choice. At least, he made it for good reasons: education, nearby church of his choice, coaching staff and winning program.
Saturday, he gets to look through the what-if window when 18th-ranked Michigan visits the seventh-ranked Nittany Lions in a Big Ten showdown.
"Michigan did a fantastic job recruiting great receivers," said Scott's father, who played for the Colts from 1974 to 1977 in a 10-year NFL career. "Freddie would have been among a crop of great receivers. He'd have been able to compete [there]. But all things considered, there's no doubt Freddie is where he's supposed to be."
A sophomore, Scott worked as first-team flanker opposite split end Bobby Engram last week at practice, and likely will make his first start against Michigan. Getting selective playing time behind Chip LaBarca, Scott has six catches for 118 yards. His average catch of 19.7 leads a team that ranks last in Big Ten pass offense.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno says he wondered at first whether he had a legitimate shot at Scott. "After being in the home, I felt we had a good chance to get Freddie," Paterno said. "His dad was very cooperative in recruiting, and his mom was concerned about education. We were very happy to get him."
Even Scott's father had some initial reservations about Penn State. But the fact Paterno had brought in quality receivers such as O. J. McDuffie and Terry Smith in recent years helped alleviate those concerns. Then there was a Christmastime visit in 1991 from Paterno.
"I think the closer was the visit from Joe," the elder Scott said. "He actually left practice to take a private plane and come by. It wasn't high pressure, and he said he couldn't promise a starting job. Then he said, 'Let's look at the other facets of Penn State and how we can help Freddie.' So that helped."
That Scott would not follow conventional paths became evident early. His father did not allow him to play contact football until he was 13. When he finally was allowed to play, he was no overnight success. "I played tight end in eighth grade," Scott said. "I was slow, very uncoordinated, and couldn't catch worth a lick."
By his junior year at Detroit Country Day -- where he attended school with basketball star Chris Webber -- Scott had developed into a good, but not yet outstanding, receiver. The next year, Country Day coach Joe D'Angelo switched to a passing offense and Scott's career blossomed. He had 48 catches for 860 yards and 12 touchdowns.
"He made everything look effortless out there," D'Angelo said. "We're a very strong academic school, and what impressed us was his balance in priorities between academics and sports. He withdrew from a Michigan all-star game to take an engineering class at Penn State in the summer."
Scott also cultivated his own identity, eschewing his father's jersey number in high school and at Penn State. "He was keen on being independent, on being his own self," the elder Scott said.
What his father lacked as a receiver -- blazing speed -- Scott has in abundance.
"He was more of a possession receiver, going across the middle," young Scott said. "I believe I can go across the middle, catch the ball and take a hit, as well as run by somebody. I want to work on the accuracy of my patterns now, where I'm running every pattern perfectly to the point the defensive back can't pick up any clues or tendencies."
Scott says he wants to play in the NFL some day, but says he is preparing for life after football regardless. His father expects him to make it in the NFL.
"Freddie could work out with professional receivers and not look like he doesn't belong," the elder Scott said. "But he still has a long way to go. He hasn't arrived yet."