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Cordale Scott seems like a man with the weight of the world finally lifted off his shoulders.
Two years ago, Scott faced a life-changing dilemma. He was just a 19-year-old sophomore wide receiver at the University of Illinois at the time, and also an unwed father whose child lived more than 400 miles away in Scott's hometown of Cleveland.
As a four-star recruit out of Cleveland Glenville High, Scott had a bounty of expectations placed on him upon joining the Illini.
Nearly every school in the Big Ten was after Scott during his days as a prep standout, and it was easy to see why. His 6-foot-4 frame and 4.5 second 40-yard dash speed left recruiters drooling.
Scott's playing career at Illinois left much to be desired, however. He played sparingly in three games as a freshman and 11 more the following year but never caught a single pass for the Illini.
By the middle of his sophomore year, feeling as homesick as ever, Scott knew he had to make a change.
"My sophomore year my son was born and then I left that [following] spring," Scott said. "It was just tough. He'd come down for a Saturday and I'd only see him for two days. I didn't want to miss out on so much with him growing and developing."
Seeking out a school closer to home, Scott turned to a familiar face.
University of Toledo coach Tim Beckman recruited Scott in high school while he was an assistant at Ohio State. The two formed a relationship then that neither had forgotten, and Beckman was the first person Scott called to see if he had a place on his team for a promising, yet unproven, transfer.
"I've been around Cordale for a long time," Beckman said. "When he called me up and asked me if he could be involved in our football team, it was without any question that I wanted that young man on my football team. Not just because he is a great football player, but he's a leader and an exceptional human being.
"When you're around Cordale, you feel it, you see it, you really do. You understand there's more to him than just being a football player."
Knowing that he'd be able to move back closer to home while still getting the chance to play the sport he loves was an overwhelming feeling for Scott and one he still cherishes.
"Coach Beck accepted me and said he'd take me in," Scott said. "He could have said no and I'd still be at Illinois. I'm just very thankful for that and I'll take advantage of every opportunity that I get here."
After sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules, Scott seems poised to make an immediate impact for the Rockets this season.
On the second series of last April's spring game, Scott caught an 18-yard touchdown pass from former Glenville teammate Terrance Owens. It was a crowning moment in what should be many more for Scott in a UT uniform.
"I'm just thankful to God to have a second chance," Scott said. "Coming from Illinois, coach Ron Zook was a great guy but it was just too far from home. Coming here with coach Beckman, it's just real family-oriented and I like that. Sitting out one year really got me to understand the system here and buy into that belief."
It's all about family these days for Scott. He'll soon be joined in Toledo by Cordale, Jr., and his son's mother, who plan to move to the area in time for the Rockets' season-opener against New Hampshire on Sept. 1 at the Glass Bowl.
"He'll be at all the games, having his little jersey on," Scott said of his son, who is two years old.
"That was the main reason why I came back closer to home. It just felt like it was right. Then to see my son every day is a blessing."
Scott also has an aunt who lives in Toledo, and the rest of his family is just a short two-hour car ride away.
Making the decision to forgo his opportunity to play football in a BCS conference and move back closer to home so he can be the father he never had growing up is one Scott hasn't regretted for a second.
"I just wanted to make the right decision so I could be a great dad, and that's why I decided to come here to Toledo," he said.
"It just makes you look at life different. You're more self-motivated because you've got something to work for. It's not just about you.
"Everyday I wake up, I know whatever I do it reflects upon my son and my family. I just keep pushing on when things get tough and think about him."
Spoken like somebody that is clearly a changed man.
Contact Zach Silka at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6084.