Greg Scruggs knows the jokes are coming. He knows his Louisville teammates just can't help themselves, that the chance to poke fun at the easy going sophomore defensive end are just too irresistible to pass up.
So whenever the former band member finds himself in the vicinity of a set of drums and a handful of teammates, he bites his tongue and waits.
"If there are drums anywhere around, everybody looks to Drummer Boy," Scruggs said with a laugh.
And when teasing starts, Scruggs does what he always does: He laughs. And then maybe — if he's in the mood — he'll give them a quick show. Just a little something to remind them that football players come from all kinds of places, even the marching band.
Long before he became a one-year phenom at St. Xavier (Ohio) High, Scruggs spent six years marching across football fields with a set of drums strapped over his shoulders dreaming of one day playing at a historically black university.
Between sixth grade and his junior year of high school, a typical day for Scruggs included two hours with the marching band after school, head home for a quick dinner, then two more hours of practice with a community band.
Football was mostly an afterthought. He tried it a couple of times. At one point he spent a week or so with a team located on the other side of Cincinnati. His mother, Anita Felton, tried to make it work before the single parent of four realized it was simply too expensive.
So Scruggs stuck with the drums. His mother saved up extra money so he and older brother Craig — also a drummer — could go to the movies to see "Drumline" when it came out in 2002. The movie chronicles a New York City street drummer who heads to a southern university and learns — after a few bumps in the road — what it takes to be a drum major.
The movie remains one of Scruggs' favorites. He has the whole thing nearly memorized. Not just the dialogue, but the cadence of the drum solos. Don't believe him? Pop it in and enjoy the show.
"I know every single thing by heart," he said. "I show people because they don't think I do. So I pull out some pencils and start doing it."
For years the future seemed laid out. Scruggs would follow in his brother's footsteps, head to an HBCU and do his thing. Yet his two best friends — Darius Ashley and Stephon Ball, stars at St. Xavier — kept bugging him, kept looking at his 6-foot-4 frame and telling him he was missing out on his true calling.
Finally, burned out after six years in band, Scruggs gave in on the eve of his senior year. His curiosity simply got the best of him.
"People were telling me if I'd play I could get a scholarship," Scruggs said. "I didn't want to leave any stone unturned when I graduated from high school."
It didn't take long for him to get comfortable. He collected 57 tackles and nine sacks during his one season of high school ball, enough to catch the attention of the Louisville coaching staff. So he traded in his drumsticks for shoulder pads and followed Ashley and Ball to the Cardinals.
Despite his lack of experience, Louisville opted not to redshirt Scruggs. He ended up playing nine games as a freshman, starting the season finale against Rutgers.
"He breaks the mold," said defensive line coach Ken Delgado. "He's intelligent, articulate, very detailed. That's probably why he's a little bit more advanced."
Even if he's not the typical defensive lineman. Sure, he tried to turn into one of those snarling, surly guys. But that's just not him.
Check the team picture. He's the only one in the sea of faces who is smiling.
"I want people to assume I'm a soft guy, that'll be their first mistake," Scruggs said. "Besides, coach Delgado breeds you into a tough guy whether you want to be or not."
Maybe, but Scruggs didn't have that far to go. Turns out band isn't exactly for the meek. Ask Scruggs if there's anything that translates between marching and football and he doesn't hesitate.
"Discipline," he said. "Drumming was all discipline. (Football) will train you mentally, getting your mind right, preparing yourself for the big game. But in band, when they're making you stand absolutely still on the field for 10 minutes in the beaming sun knowing that if you move one inch the clock will start over, that will discipline you."
Does he miss it? Sure. And while he loves football, he feels a pinch of nostalgia when he heads to the locker room for halftime and the band shuffles by on its way to perform.
"Playing football in front of all these people, that's fun, but there's always ups and downs in football," Scruggs said. "In band, it was always up. There was no down. The only down was when you had to stop playing."
Source: AP News