BOULDER - With the breath of football fans at Colorado and Texas collectively held and TV cameras focused on him at the ESPN Zone in Anaheim, Calif., Darrell Scott nonchalantly pulled on a baseball cap emblazoned with a Buffaloes logo and declared his intention to sign CU's national letter of intent.
It was early February 2008, and Scott, generally regarded as the nation's top high school running back, offered this as the reason for choosing Colorado over Texas:
"I thought Colorado was a good fit . . . (Coach) Dan Hawkins has a vision and I want to be part of that vision."
Two perplexing seasons later - for the player, his coach and his teammates - the fit in Boulder became abrasive and sharing Hawkins' vision lost its appeal.
Darrell Scott plans to leave CU.
In a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon, Scott said he hopes to transfer to UCLA, where his uncle, former CU receiver Josh Smith, was accepted for the fall semester.
"There are a lot of things (that influenced his decision), but I don't want to get into them," Scott said. "I've thought about it for a while, a couple of months . . . this is just not the place for me."
Scott said he first informed running backs coach Darian Hagan of his decision, but Hagan was miffed that it was done by text message and not face-to-face.
"I didn't find out the way I thought I deserved to find out," Hagan said. "It's unfortunate that he decided he had to leave. He has to do what he has to do. But I just wish he would have done it a different way."
Scott's text offered no explanation for his decision, and Hagan said he was stunned that Scott was considering transferring: "I had no idea he was even thinking about it. I asked him on different occasions was he OK, was he OK? Was he thinking about transferring, because I'd heard people saying stuff.
"I told him to be a man about it and look me in the eye. He said, 'Naw, coach, I've never thought about it.' So today was a total surprise for me."
Hagan's commitment to recruiting Scott and the relationship he developed with the player and his mother were among the primary reasons Scott chose CU.
Said Hagan: "The time I devoted to him, I just think I deserved a little better in him letting me know he wasn't happy here."
Neither did Hawkins get a Tuesday visit from Scott, who said after informing his position coach, Hagan must have informed Hawkins, because Scott immediately received a text from his head coach.
Scott said he responded to Hawkins' message with, "I'm out," and then cleaned out his locker in CU's Dal Ward Athletics Center.
Hawkins informed the team of Scott's plans before Tuesday's practice. After the practice, Hawkins admitted he was surprised by Scott's decision, but declined further comment.
Scott's teammates were equally stunned.
"I was actually shocked; I probably was the last person to hear about it," sophomore running back Rodney "Speedy" Stewart said. "I know coach Hagan has been asking him the question (about transferring) all season, and he's been denying it. So to finally to hear that he really wants to transfer is a shocker."
Stewart said he never really got close to Scott, but it wasn't because they were competing for playing time.
"I mean, he wasn't no secretive guy," Stewart said. "When you'd hang out with him, he was pretty open . . . but I didn't ever get into a brother relationship with him."
Added Stewart: "I think he would have transferred out at the end of the season, no matter how great a season he might have had . . . .
"We're driving on a long bus (ride) on a long road. He's just one of the guys who's jumped off the bus. The bus isn't going to stop moving; it's got to keep going."
Junior receiver Scotty McKnight said players were "bummed" because Scott was "well-liked on the team . . . we were pretty much caught off-guard, but that's the way it is. When guys are unhappy, they leave and hopefully it works out for them."
Scott declined to say how much of an influence Smith, his uncle, had in the decision. He said he has spoken with Smith, who is sitting out the mandatory transfer season, just as Scott must do at any FBS school under NCAA rules, "a little, but not too much.
"He was trying to tell me what was going on with him, what he's up to and how he likes it (at UCLA)."
Losing Scott, said Hagan, will not adversely affect the chemistry at his position: "All my guys like each other, they're all competitive. We just lost a pair of legs. But like I said, I wish Darrell nothing but the best . . . life goes on; I'll wake up tomorrow and it'll be a different day."
To provide depth at running back, Hagan said sophomore defensive back/ kick returner Arthur Jaffee could "be a short term deal for us."
In the longer term, said Hagan, "We'll just go out and recruit some guys who want to be here - that's the bottom line. We've got to go out and recruit guys who know there's going to be ups and downs. We've just got to fight through them and move on."
Scott plans to finish out the fall semester at CU. He said he attempted to contact athletic director Mike Bohn Tuesday afternoon to talk about obtaining a release from his scholarship, and Bohn said Tuesday night a meeting with Scott was set for Wednesday.
"We'll meet and I'll learn more about his intentions," Bohn said. "We'll follow the process associated with any potential release."
Scott would not say that his uncle had a direct influence on him targeting UCLA as his next stop. But on national signing day two years ago, in addition to advising Scott to "follow your heart," Smith conceded if he wasn't on the Buffs roster, Scott "probably wouldn't be at Colorado . . . Darrell's big on family; our whole family is."
That apparently remains a factor. Enrolling at UCLA would allow him to "be at home (he played at a pair of Southern California high schools, Moorpark and St. Bonaventure) and be by my mom," said Scott, adding that his mother "supports me in this."
He called UCLA "a nice school with a pretty good team and a lot of talent. Basically everybody on the team, I played with or against them in high school."
When Scott was being recruited, UCLA was in the aftermath of a coaching change, moving from Karl Dorrell to Rick Neuheisel. The Bruins made a late push for Scott, and he said at the time that UCLA might have been in the running had Neuheisel's chase begun earlier.
Scott said the first of his CU teammates to know of his decision was fellow running back Demetrius Sumler. Asked if Sumler tried to talk him out of leaving, Scott said, "There was no talking me out of it."
Scott reported to the CU football program out of shape, and for myriad reasons - including injuries and the emergence of the unheralded Stewart - his career never really took shape.
He arrived in Boulder later than most of CU's 2008 incoming freshmen, delayed by summer course work (Algebra II) he needed to pass to be eligible for admission.
As a result, he missed out on practically all of the Buffs' summer conditioning work, did little conditioning on his own, and reported about 15 pounds above his ideal playing weight of 220.
After being set back by conditioning issues, the 6-foot-1 Scott suffered ankle and groin injuries that slowed him for most of his freshman season. There also was the matter of failing to meet the soaring expectations that shadowed him with his first step onto campus.
Nonetheless, he said his unfulfilling first year didn't produce second thoughts about signing with CU.
"I can't go back and say I didn't want to come . . . I did," Scott said. "But now it's time to move on. I feel a lot of things right now, but I'm not going to go out and say stuff. It's not the right thing to do."
Asked if he was frustrated, he said, "You could say everybody feels that way. I just need to go back to home base and get my mind right . . . get this knee right. But it's good, it's getting stronger."
Scott underwent arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 22, with CU medical officials believing he might return for the Buffs' game at Iowa State on Nov. 14.
After injuring the knee in Game 2 at Toledo, Scott's playing time was sporadic. He was used most effectively as a kick returner until undergoing arthroscopic surgery.
"I was hurt sometimes and not hurt sometimes," he said. "I'm not going to point a finger (about playing time). Everything played out like it did, and I'm just trying to look ahead in that respect."