When Scott Norwood headed off to James Madison University for his freshman year of college, he knew one thing for sure: he could kick.
He could kick soccer balls, that is.
The soccer recruit hadn't dreamed that he would soon switch sports and accidentally step into a skill that would change his career.
"The football team didn't have a kicker and they had heard of the success I'd had in high school," Norwood said. "So they enticed me to come out and play for them. I would just break during soccer practices and come over in my soccer uniform. I'd go over and kick field goals."
Once he and the football coaching staff realized his talent – despite being the second leading scorer on the soccer team – he quit the sport he was originally recruited for and committed to football for his sophomore year.
"I gave it up after my first year, because football was such a new and exciting thing and I enjoyed it so much," he said. "It was fun to be exposed to that electricity in the stadium at a big college. It was something I couldn't resist."
As we know now, the rest was history. Despite barely playing football in high school and walking onto the team in college, he'd go on to a seven year NFL career, with notable highlights including All-Pro and Pro Bowl selections, as well as overtaking O.J. Simpson as the Bills franchise leader in scoring at the time.
"My big memory during my time in Buffalo was meeting O.J. Simpson in the locker room," he said. "He was around the weekend that I surpassed the scoring record that he had previously. It was a fun time and I treasured every week I had the chance to play for the team."
When his NFL career came to an end in 1991, he headed back to his native Virginia and "fell off the map" for a while as he jumped from the football field to the corporate world.
"It was tough to transition in that a lot of my peer group had already been in the work force and had elevated themselves over the decade that I left to play professional football," Norwood said.
But as he used his business degree from JMU to get further along in the insurance, sales and real estate industries in Virginia, he found that much of what he learned playing football helped him stay focused in his new profession.
"What I did as a kicker was a very solitary position where you have to be self-motivated to go out and push yourself and do it mostly by yourself. That was something I took into the professional environment – to be able to compete out there and motivate myself."
Though Norwood's kicking days are behind him, his three children are continuing in the soccer tradition, which he says has been fun to watch. He and his wife, an elementary school special education teacher, come back to Buffalo occasionally to visit relatives and participate in charity events, and he says that he's honored by the opportunity to Lead the Charge over the tunnel at the Ralph before this Sunday's Cincinnati Bengals game, which will bring back many fond memories.