Scott recounts his journey to God at FCA banquet in Greenwood

Football was going to be his way out — but not as a Blue Hose.

As a child, Timothy Eugene Scott grew up in working-class poverty alongside his two brothers while his mother, Frances, logged 16 hour days to raise her family.

Scott, who is South Carolina’s first black U.S. Senator, developed a knack for the game in high school and was on a path toward success when fate intervened in the summer of 1981.

“It was Aug. 22, and I had taken my mama to work. I was driving back about 30 minutes to our place, so I rolled the windows down in our car, I turned the music high and I turned the heat up to wake me up and the next thing I knew, I heard the gravel underneath my tires. I was driving on Interstate 26, and I did what any 16-year-old would do at the time. I panicked. I slammed on the brakes and jerked the steering wheel at the same time,” Scott recalled on Monday in Greenwood, where he offered the keynote address to more than 600 people at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes banquet at Piedmont Technical College. “The car started spinning side to side back into traffic. I hit the median in the middle of the interstate and it popped me back into the air, heading in the opposite direction. I went through the windshield but I held onto the steering wheel and I yelled for help. I had crossed all the lanes in traffic. There was glass everywhere, there was blood everywhere and I could hear somebody waving and yelling toward my car, ‘Oh my God, he might be dead.’”

Left with a broken ankle and a “messed up back,” gone were Scott’s scholarships — except one. Presbyterian College in Clinton offered the lanky running back a partial scholarship.

Three years later, on a winter’s night in the basement of Presbyterian’s Thomason Library, Scott attended a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting and gave his life and heart over to Jesus Christ.

“It took a unique set of circumstances to find Jesus at Presbyterian College — which is a college I never really wanted to go to,” Scott said. “I’m not sure I ever would have found Jesus if my ego took me where I wanted to go. God didn’t cause the accident, but he used it to deliver me into his kingdom.”

Unapologetic about his faith, Scott’s first action when he took the stage Monday was dropping to his knees in praise of the Lord.

“You had to get on your knees and submit your life fully and completely to the lordship of Jesus Christ. My life is worthless without Jesus Christ,” he said.

John Rickenbacker, area director of the South Carolina Coastal FCA chapter, met Scott at Presbyterian. Two years his elder, Rickenbacker was a defensive back who battled Scott on the practice field.

“We’d knock him down, we’d knock him around and he’d come up grinning every single time, and so I remember his smile, his grin reflected his tenacity and that’s the way Tim Scott has lived his life,” Rickenbacker said. “I’d never seen so much relentless tenacity. You just can’t keep the guy down.”

Scott said his “unique set of circumstances” came together for reasons outside of his control.

“I missed seven weeks of senior football season, lost a lot of scholarships but I was so thankful Presbyterian College extended me a partial scholarship, and that’s when I understand the full power of God, to take your life shattered into pieces, turn it over and start it again and set it all right,” he said.