2017 was supposed to be the year Jordan Scarlett would lead the Florida Gators and work his way into the NFL Draft. Growing up in South Florida he had dreamed of playing in the NFL since he first put pads on playing Pop Warner. He had moved into leadership role, his teammates respected and looked up to him. He was the leading returner in terms of carries, yards and touchdowns and the sky was the limit.
It all came crashing down the week of the opening game when Scarlett was implicated in a credit card fraud scheme that left not only his football future in doubt but the rest of his life facing felony charges.
“In the beginning it was really stressful,” Scarlett said. “I really wasn’t sure what was going to happen and how the consequences were going to play out.”
Scarlett told reporters that the news came as a shock to himself and hid teammates. Florida’s gameplan for Michigan revolved heavily around the running back and 48 hours before the game he found out that he wouldn’t be allowed to play. There wasn’t a definitive timetable for his return either. Not playing football is hard, but that had to take a backseat to his legal trouble.
Scarlett was eventually offered and accepted a deferred prosecution deal. It’s essentially entering into a contract with the State Attorney’s office. They lay out criteria and stipulations, similar to if you were on probation, with the agreement to drop any charges that you would have faced if you don’t violate the agreement. That doesn’t mean Scarlett is in the clear, if he were to violate the agreement he has with the State Attorney’s office they would bring credit card fraud charges back against him. It also didn’t clear him up with the University of Florida or the football team initially, either.
“I was really just focused on getting out of the trouble I was in and hopefully the university would accept me back,” he said.
That uncertainty, along with the way the NFL and the careers of running backs are in the league did have Scarlett wondering about what his next move would be. He thought about leaving for the NFL, like Antonio Callaway did but in the end he didn’t because of a sense of responsibility and regret.
“I just felt like I had a lot of unfinished business here, and I owed my team a lot from last year, so I decided to come back and give it all I’ve got,” he said.
Scarlett took ownership of what he did. He knows he made a mistake and he paid a price for that. “I’m just trying to work to be a better person,” he says now.
His teammate, friend and biggest competition for carries see that as well.
“He learned from his mistakes. I can say that,” running back Lamical Perine said of Scarlett. “He’s always been a good guy I mean, nobody in this world perfect and I feel like just made, just made him even, he focused in more and he doing pretty good man. I’m happy that he back.”
Scarlett has a renewed sense of purpose. He says he’s on track to graduate this now that he’s returned for his senior season. He hasn’t played a competitive game of football in more than a year and has a fire burning inside him after having the game he loves taken away. He’s ready to rewrite his story and make up for the time he lost.
“That they’ll get 110 percent out of me,” Scarlett said to fans. “I’ll be fighting to the end.”