Rock Hill’s Jaleel Scott has never seen the HBO show, “The Wire,” a TV series regarded by many critics as the best ever.
The Wire takes place in Baltimore, where Scott lives as a member of the city’s NFL team, the Ravens. The show portrays a violent, drug-riddled side of the city that Scott has never experienced. He spends almost all of his time holed up in his suburban apartment or at the Ravens’ nearby practice facility.
Like many of The Wire’s characters, Scott is busily climbing the success ladder (albeit by legal means). The 6-foot-6 wide receiver and Rock Hill High graduate reached pro football when the Ravens drafted him in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but he tore his hamstring during the third preseason game and was placed on injured reserve. Scott was out for the season, rendering his rookie campaign the equivalent of a college redshirt year.
“Any player that gets drafted, their reaction isn’t to sit out a whole year,” he said. “You want to play, you want to perform, you want to help the organization, the team. That definitely put me off.”
Scott spent the season on the sidelines, whether over in the corner with athletic trainers during practices, or dressed in normal clothing during home games. He didn’t travel with the team to away games, and said he’s rarely recognized in public, save for hardcore Ravens fans.
Scott was back on the field by the fifth week of the 2018 season, but he couldn’t fully rejoin the team because of the league’s injured reserve rules. So, he dived into game and practice film. For the first time in his life, he had nothing else to worry about besides getting better at football, his profession.
“You’re learning so much each and every day,” said Scott. “It was an eye-opener. Everybody takes it for granted because you’re doing it all your life. It’s a blessing to be in the NFL. It woke me up, made me appreciate the game more than I ever have.”
The work that ensued is starting to pay off.
He caught two touchdowns during Ravens practices in recent weeks, the first a bomb down the sideline from Ravens QB Robert Griffin III and the second, a nice snag on a bullet pass over the middle from Baltimore rookie QB Trace McSorley. The second TD showcased one of Scott’s elite abilities, winning contested throws against smaller defenders.
”Jaleel has had a really good offseason,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh told the media recently. “He’s made plays like that pretty much the whole camp. He’s playing really fast and really well, and I think all those receivers are setting themselves up for a competition in training camp. It’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”
The Ravens used 2019 first and third round draft picks on receivers, giving them seven pass-catchers with three years of NFL experience or less. It’s likely that Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin -- the recent draft picks -- will make the Ravens’ roster, along with leading returning receiver Willie Snead IV, and probably Chris Moore, according to reporting from the Ravens’ team web site. That should leave two or three spots for the remaining group of eight or nine receivers to pursue when training camp opens in mid-July.
Scott occasionally gets home to Rock Hill to see his mom and dad, Yolanda and Joseph, but has otherwise spent the offseason working on creating more separation from defenders so that he’s not typecast as merely a jump ball specialist. He needs more moments of separation like the two touchdown catches, where his unique abilities grab Baltimore coaches’ eyeballs.
“I’m giving it all I got,” said Scott. “Let God take care of the rest.