HOUSTON Most every parent experiences that moment with their football-playing child, an uneasy discussion following the first cringe-worthy injury that leaves all involved questioning the sanity of it all.
Scott Solomon was reared in an academic environment. His father Dale is an anesthesiologist. His mother Diane is a neurologist. His twin brother Stewart is a first-year medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center. Football was steadfastly supported in the Solomon home; suggesting it was promoted would be taking liberties.
Thus when Solomon was concussed during the fourth game of his freshman season at Rice, a brutal 44-point loss at seventh-ranked Texas on Sept. 22, 2007, Diane Solomon had seen enough. She was set to toss in the towel, and would have been ecstatic had her son done likewise.
"She was like, 'OK, that's it. I can't stand to see him get hurt like that,'" Dale Solomon recalled with a chuckle. "At that point she said some things to (Scott) like, 'Do you really want to do this?' He was like, 'Yeah, I want to do this. I have a goal now. I'm going to do this.'"
Of all the moments of perseverance displayed by son that resonated with father, Dale Solomon identifies that memorable exchange as the point in time when he realized that his son would not relent. That Scott Solomon had earned a football scholarship despite being an unheralded recruit out of San Antonio Marshall High School was impressive enough, but his unwavering desire to exceed expectations was otherworldly.
Solomon matriculated at Rice with no guarantees of playing time, let alone stardom, so his approach to the NFL Draft is best described as pragmatic. He closed his career on South Main sharing the program record for sacks (24) with Brandon Green (1999-2002). He moved into the starting lineup at end as a freshman, overcame a broken foot that cost him the 2010 season, and reclaimed his standard of productivity last year despite knee injuries that would have felled a lesser individual.
He was invited to and participated at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, yet Saturday will offer tension because Solomon could be selected in the fifth round or might not hear his name called at all. He has been under the radar so long that he has grown accustomed to the underdog role. The source of that irrepressible determination to excel initially mystified his father, a man admittedly detached from athletic pursuits.
Solomon isn't quite sure of where that yearning stems from either.
"I just kind of made it mine," Solomon said. "I just decided that I was going to be full of piss and vinegar and just get after it every day and go as hard as I can. That's what I love to do; that's the role that I chose.
"When people are pressuring you, you don't find self-fulfillment in it. Making football success my own, I feel I found self-fulfillment in that."
Initiative served Solomon well, particularly with his parents immune to the disease of living vicariously through the athletic prowess of their children. But even someone with a fuse repellent to extinguishing can use a helping hand, and as the promise of a professional career came into view, Solomon needed a mentor knowledgeable of the path ahead.
In former Eagles, Redskins and Texans defensive end N.D. Kalu, Solomon found a ready and willing resource of information. Their connection was strengthened by the fact that Kalu graduated from the same high school and college as Solomon. Theirs is a natural bond, a link that lured Kalu and inspired him to serve in an active role in draft preparations.
In Solomon, Kalu sees a little bit of himself. Kalu was drafted in the fifth round by the Eagles (152nd overall) and was modestly sized (6-foot-3, 265 pounds) at his position. As Solomon (6-foot-3, 264) delved into combine prep at Athletes' Performance in Pensacola, Fla., any amount of wisdom on how to deal with the process was absorbed and appreciated.
"I took an instant liking to the way he played," Kalu said. "I just don't think he's a guy going out there to fulfill his four years because that's what his scholarship asked him to do. When I saw him play I asked the coach (David Bailiff), 'Who is that guy?' I had to learn more about him.
"I hope that I've helped him, but I'm not going to sit here and take any credit. All you have to do is turn on the film if you're a scout and you know what you're going to get from Scott Solomon. I would love to take credit for him, but besides just working with him on some certain moves and spending a few days in the summer out there on the grass with him, any and everything that he's accomplished he's done it by himself."
Solomon expressed disappointment with one area of his combine performance: his 40-yard dash (4.94 seconds). When Rice conducted its Pro Day weeks later, Solomon worked on linebacker drills just to give scouts a varied look at his skill set. Should he stick at end, Solomon could easily gain the 10 to 20 pounds he needs to man that position. His current weight is better suited for linebacker. Uncertainty lingers.
His lack of pretense makes Solomon equipped to handle whatever unfolds on Saturday. He is already accomplished where he stands, and his past history of overcoming long odds leaves Solomon positioned to hurdle any obstacles presented. Should Solomon be forced to earn his way as a free agent, he is prepared for that chore. Should the phone ring at the Solomon household, he'll take that measure of validation in stride.
At this stage, all he craves is opportunity. He has cheerleaders in his corner regardless of how his professional career takes flight.
"That'd be awesome if I got drafted obviously," Solomon said. "That's my goal. I feel like I just want to get somewhere and I'll show them what I've got. I can make a team that way. I want to make an impact next year."
Said Dale Solomon: "I think all he needs to do is get on a practice field and they're going to love him. He just needs to get to that point, and if he doesn't get drafted it's the same thing. Some teams are going to bring him out, and once they see him out there they're going to love him."
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