Texans’ Scarlett Makes Most Of Opportunity


by Oliver Maroney

Brennan Scarlett was once ranked as the No. 2 prospect in the state of Oregon and ninth in the country at his position

Being recruited by the likes of University of Oregon, USC, UCLA, BYU, Nebraska, Oklahoma and other top colleges around the country, Scarlett decided that the University of California was the best fit for what he was wanting in a college. Unlike many other top recruits, Scarlett’s priority wasn’t just football, it was about academics as well. His decision to go to Cal shocked many, as he decided to go to the school that wasn’t necessarily known for being a football powerhouse.

“Yeah, it was definitely (a shock) for most people,” Scarlett told Football Insiders. “They (Cal) had decent seasons leading up to the time I got there. But I wanted to be apart of really building something and building something great. That year (2011), we had a great class coming in. I really got along with Coach Tedford,Lupoi, and Gould. The coaching staff preached the values that I liked. Once I actually went down to Berkeley, it reminded me of Portland, and that was when I said ‘this is the place for me’. Football wasn’t the number one priority at the time. I knew that you could only play for so long and that the game can be taken from you at the blink of an eye. It was really about academics and finding a school where I could be pushed both academically and athletically.”

While at Cal, Scarlett spent most of his time on the sidelines due to a variety of different injuries. But when he did play, you could tell he was still a force to be reckoned with. His size, speed, and agility were all there. His ability to read offenses and see the play before it happened were evident and clear.

Once Scarlett completed his senior season at Cal, he decided to transfer to the Bears’ rival, Stanford. Becoming the teams’ first ever graduate transfer. Scarlett knew that because of his injuries in the past, nothing was guaranteed. School was always important and that was once again, the number one reason for his decisions.

“Luckily for me, because I had a lot of injuries in high school and college, I had a lot of focus on my academics.” Scarlett told us. “Had it not been for some of those injuries through school, I may not have focused as hard on my academics. When having injuries, it’s really a humbling experience. You go from on top of the world, to not being able to walk, so it definitely changed my mindset.”

After the transfer to Stanford, Scarlett made up for some of the lost time on the football field. In 2015, Scarlett’s 37 tackles and 5.5 sacks, helped him receive All PAC-12 Honorable Mention honors. However, even playing for a top-ten national program and racking up statistics like Scarlett, he still found himself on the outside-looking-in when it came to the NFL Draft.

“I wanted to finish up school,” Scarlett said. “So I ended up staying at Stanford and working with the strength and conditioning staff there. My situation was a little different because normally guys finish up their final season in the fall and then go to an off-site facility in the spring. I got my agent and there wasn’t a whole lot of demand to get me at a big-time training facility. So it was just school and workouts on campus throughout spring.”

Scarlett remained hopeful throughout the process and received calls from a number of NFL teams interested.

“I was thinking ‘okay, I have a shot to get drafted,” Scarlett added. “I had a good pro-day and that was really the only time I had to get out and show my stuff. I wasn’t invited to a Senior Bowl or All-Star game, so the pro-day was my chance. I felt like I performed well and teams were calling and telling me ‘we may pick you up in this round or that round, if not we’ll pick you up as a free-agent.’”

But it was the Texans that made it clear they wanted Scarlett. Previous to the pro-day, Scarlett even says that the Texans called him, letting him know he’d be a good fit in their defensive system.

However, the draft came and went without Scarlett being picked. His name wasn’t called, but it didn’t come as too much of a surprise. The most stressful part wasn’t the draft, it was the expedited decision-making process that had to happen after.

“It was a really stressful couple of hours,” Scarlett told us. “From the seventh round to about an hour after the draft. I had a few teams calling immediately after the draft and so at that point it’s like ‘okay, well let me research these rosters, ask the coaches what my chances are’. Obviously, you don’t want to say ‘what are my chances to play’ because you have confidence in your abilities. But as an undrafted free-agent, you’ve got to be realistic about your options. If they already have three or four guys locked in a spot, then am I just going there to be a filler? So I am going through that with my agent in the span of an hour and I was definitely feeling the pressure. I’m thinking ‘dang I can’t mess this up, I’ve got one shot.’ But I did have faith that everything would work out. Luckily, it all worked out in my favor.”

Scarlett made it through the first process of the NFL, as he decided to sign with the Houston Texans. But as everyone knows, just because you’re signed as an undrafted free-agent, doesn’t mean you’ll stick. It takes a ton of effort, energy, skill, and ability, to land a spot on the 53-man roster. It starts with 90 players and progressively dwindles to 53.

On a defensive unit like the Texans, with guys like J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, and other established veterans, it was going to be extremely hard for a player like Scarlett to make the roster.

“There were no guarantees or promises that were made,” Scarlett said about making the roster. “The only promise was that I could come in and compete for a spot. I knew there was one spot available for someone to take. All I could really ask for was an opportunity to compete for that.”

Scarlett would compete and get an opportunity to prove himself at the NFL level he’d once dreamt of.

“It’s how I was brought up,” Scarlett said. “My mom and dad both taught me to never have any limitations. They taught me that I could always do it like there was never a doubt.”

Scarlett’s NFL dream didn’t end there, he’d eventually make the 53-man roster against the odds that stood before him. His hard-work, football IQ, and intangibles, helped him to make the roster. Even so, Scarlett is looking for more. Now he’s spending time with guys like Whitney Mercilus, whom Scarlett claims is the guy that he looks up to in the locker room.

“That’s the quintessential pro right there,” Scarlett said about Mercilus. “He take’s care of his body, always the first one in and the last one out of the locker room. A guy like that is really cool to look up to. I take parts of his game and how he approaches his preparation, he’s definitely had an effect on me.”

Scarlett’s journey to the NFL isn’t just unique, it’s viable and smart. His ability on and off the football field, made him prepared for whatever life threw at him. His ability to achieve high honors, graduate school, and still make it to the pros, is a testament to his belief within himself.

“It’s family oriented more than anything,” Scarlett said about his academic success. “I can’t say that a majority of my focus comes from me. My dad’s whole family was born in Jamaica and my grandpa ended up moving to Toronto when my dad was 12 years old. He worked there for five or six years till he earned enough to bring my dad and his four siblings, along with my grandmother, over to North America. He did it to give them a better life and more opportunity. My dad became a first generation university student, while my mom’s side of the family were mostly Stanford graduates. Academics and doing good in school were big deals on both sides of my family.”

Beyond football, Scarlett says he was actually a basketball player growing up.

“Before Kyle Wiltjer got ‘big-time’ I used to play with him on the same basketball team,” Scarlett said. “I’ve known Kyle since sixth and seventh grade. We also went to rival high schools, so we had some battles. You could never come out on top of that guy.”

Shockingly, both Scarlett and Wiltjer ended up as professional athletes in the same city. They both play for Houston teams, the Houston Rockets and Houston Texans. Maybe Scarlett was put in Houston for more reasons than one. He now talks to Wiltjer regularly and they spend time together when they aren’t on the field or court.

It’s not a coincidence Scarlett is in the situation he’s in. His hard work, willingness to succeed, and passion for anything he puts his mind to, is why he’s special. While Scarlett is a football player, many should look at him as a role-model. He’s one of very few that become both academically and physically gifted. The 6’4”, 260 pound, outside linebacker isn’t just another football player that runs fast, jumps high, and tackles hard. He’s also one of the smartest, brightest individuals you’ll meet, and that’s where you can see separation.

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