At a tailgate gathering before last week's Tarleton State-Incarnate Word football game in San Antonio, Frank Scelfo hung close to an outdoor TV set, watching intently as Arizona rallied to beat USC, worrying like a proud father that UA quarterback Matt Scott was seriously injured.
"I was thinking Matt should be the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year," said Scelfo, who was the UA quarterbacks coach in 2010 and 2011. "Think about it: Who else would it be? I was thinking it would be a tragedy if he went down now."
Once inside Benson Stadium, Scelfo thought back to the day he was hired and moved to Tucson, in early February 2010.
He had been summoned by Mike Stoops and told that he had but one recruiting responsibility.
"Mike told me, 'Don't let Matt Scott get out of town,'" Scelfo says now, laughing. "The recruiting class had just been completed, and Mike said 'Frank, it's your job to let Matt know how important he is to us.'
"So I set down with Matt and told him we would start with a fresh slate. He wasn't happy about much; Nick (Foles) had become the No. 1 guy, and Matt was probably looking to transfer. I mean, who wouldn't?"
In the final nine games of Arizona's 2009 season, Foles threw 380 passes. Scott threw eight, all at garbage time.
Foles had become the face of Arizona's football program. Scott felt more than forgotten; he felt abandoned.
On Saturday, early in the Tarleton State-Incarnate Word game, Scelfo's phone rang. It was Matt Scott.
"It was the happiest I had ever heard Matt," Scelfo says. "We talked a long time, 30 minutes; he went on and on about how the team had come together, about the camaraderie and all that stuff.
"He's so much fun, he has such a great sense of humor. I mean, I'm 53 and he's (22). We're not supposed to have much to talk about - what do we have in common? - but we laughed the whole time. I hope the UA fans understand what a good kid he is."
Scelfo asked Scott about the violent double-hit he absorbed late in the game, one that, when replayed in slow motion, made you want to look away from the TV screen.
"I remember Matt throwing up every now and then, during practice or a scrimmage, and he said that's all that it was: he had gotten over-heated," Scelfo says. "He didn't say anything about a concussion. I went home happy after talking to him."
If Scelfo is happy, how about Matt Scott?
He leads all Pac-12 passers and is No. 4 in the nation. He ranks second in the NCAA in total offense. Through eight games, no quarterback in school history had numbers like Matt Scott has numbers.
He has been rewarded for his patience and his trust in Scelfo, who told him his time would come. Most young QBs would have bailed.
I remember standing in the tunnel at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium on Sept. 19, 2009, the day Iowa beat the Wildcats 27-17 and Scott had struggled, completing just 4 of 14 passes for 50 yards. UA offensive coordinator Sonny Dykes explained why he had chosen Scott over Foles coming out of training camp a month earlier.
"If you could see them practice, day to day, you'd know why Matt's the guy," Dykes told me as he walked to the team bus. "He's going to be a very good quarterback some day, but I think now we're going to make a change and see what Nick can do."
Scott sat on the bench for the rest of 2009 and played briefly in 2010 when Foles hurt his knee. Scott redshirted in 2011.
When Rich Rodriguez arrived last winter, he did not rush to the film room and make a quick examination of Scott's limited time as a college quarterback. He waited until the first day of spring training.
"I told (assistant coaches) Rod Smith and Calvin Magee, 'I think we've got a guy who can really spin it," Rodriguez remembers. "This is a guy who can make all the throws as well as any guy I've ever had, and I've had some good ones."
Now, after eight games, Smith, the quarterback's coach, understands what his boss saw last spring, and what Scelfo, Stoops and Dykes saw years earlier.
"You can tell he's a fifth-year guy," says Smith. "He's not some young guy. You can tell he's been around the block, so to speak. He's not fazed by the big scene. There isn't a better competitor on the field. He gets locked in, he's serious, he's all business, and he loves to play football."
Scelfo is out of football this year, watching as his son, former Salpointe Catholic quarterback Jordan Scelfo, waits for his chance to play at Incarnate Word.
He lives about 25 miles from Louisiana Tech's campus, where Dykes has built a Top 25 team, 7-1. Scelfo has been to Tech's practices, chatting with Dykes about football and about Scott and Arizona. Sometimes college football is a very small world.
"I think what happened (in 2009) was that too much was put on Matt, especially when he went to Iowa and played that game before 70,000 people against a nationally ranked defense," Scelfo says. "He was only 18 years old that day. Matt lost some confidence and people lost confidence in him. For a lot of guys, that would've been the end of the road."
Instead, for Matt Scott, it was the beginning of a long and winding road that has made him the most provocative quarterback in the Pac-12.
"Everything's still on the table for him," says Scelfo. "It's his team now."
Contact Greg Hansen at 573-4362 or firstname.lastname@example.org