DURHAM — Desmond Scott arrives at Duke today for the start of his college football career. He'll unpack, meet his roommate and start classes on Monday.
"I've been waiting for this moment basically all my life," said Scott, a recent graduate of Durham Hillside High School, where he earned his reputation as one of the state's top rushers. "I knew I would be playing college football somewhere. I didn't know where and how it would be."
Scott, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound running back, arrives on campus like any other freshman, wide-eyed and carrying a load of goods from Target and Walmart.
He's also packed his most important valuables: his mind and his legs.
His mind for the two classes he'll take during Duke's second summer session, where he'll start directly earning credits toward his intended major of education administration.
His legs for the job of carrying the football for the Devils, who open their season at home on Sept. 5 against Richmond and have high expectations under second-year coach David Cutcliffe.
Like any freshman, Scott holds out hope of breaking into the starting lineup and immediately contributing to a winning season.
To prepare his legs for such a task, he has done what some other elite freshmen around the nation have done before joining college teams: hire a personal trainer.
"It's that extra push that will take you to the next level and make you better than your peers," Scott said.
Scout.com scout Miller Safrit said many of the nation's best players have sought personal trainers over the past five years to help improve their physical abilities despite their high ranking.
"It gives them an edge," Safrit said. "I don't know if it's the exact reason they're doing it but it does help."
He said some high school students, particularly those who come from smaller high schools, are introduced to the type of resistance training that develops fast-twitch muscles, flexibility and agility. He said they learn exercises that "allow players to adjust to college speed."
Scott turned to Pro Elite Training in Durham.
"We have to prepare his body for the beating it's going to take," said certified personal trainer Russell Dudley, a former collegiate player who graduated from Chowan in 2002. "I try to drill him enough, work his legs enough that they'll last a long time where he can tote the ball 20 to 30 times a game."
On Tuesday, Scott arrived at Pro Elite's facility at 9:30 a.m. and immediately started stretching. There was little time to talk about the 16 110-yard sprints he had run at Duke that morning before Dudley instructed him to high-step through a ladder on the turf surface of the small gym.
"You make your money now," Dudley said. "You don't make your money in the league."
Soon, Scott was on to another exercise, sprinting 15 yards with a football tucked under his arms while Dudley held on to his waist with a large rubber band. Back and forth, Scott bulldozed forward, pulling Dudley like a sled.
"Drive, drive," Dudley instructed. "Take me to the end zone."
Upon completion of one drill, there was a 10-second break before Scott continued. Every drill moved at the pace of a football game.
Next, Scott jumped between two wooden boxes on the ground. From a kneeling position, he lifted himself into a standing position on the boxes. He completed three sets of 10, with five extra tacked on to the last set for good measure.
"Yes, sir. Good work," Dudley said to Scott on the final jump.
Breathing hard, Scott raised his hands above his head. All he could do was shake his head. The workout wasn't over.
Scott hopes extra workouts like Tuesday's prepare him to compete for time in the backfield. He knows nothing will be handed to him.
"Whatever is needed," he said.
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