Saint Francis School’s football team may be on cloud nine right now, but growing up, the state’s leader in touchdown catches was struggling on the ground.
In 2014, Scott McLeod was rescued from the streets when he enrolled as a freshman at Saint Francis.
“Growing up, it was rough, homeless a couple of times, in and out of homeless shelters, in and out of CPS,” McLeod said. “Being separated, not being able to speak to my family, sometimes I didn’t really know where they were. It was kind of scary not knowing.”
Without his mom, dad, and siblings, McLeod had an opportunity to turn his fortunes around.
He was taken in by a foster family, and into the Saint Francis family by Sister Joan of Arc Souza.
Souza was able to use the Mills Street Fund to help pay most of his annual tuition — a special award from the Sisters of Saint Francis from the sale of a hospital in Pennsylvania.
The stipulation was that the nuns could not use the money to help themselves, but they could use the money to support their ministry.
So they decided to help McLeod.
“One of the coaches came and said there’s this young man, kind of in a sad situation. He’s got some potential. Do you think Saint Francis could give him a break, do something for him? I said, I’m always willing to give a child a break,” said Souza.
“Sister described it the best, as a diamond in the rough,” said head football coach Kip Akana. “We’d seen the potential and he was always a smart kind, but he had to adjust to the private school setting and we were a little worried at times.”
McLeod dealt with anger management and academic problems. The skies began to clear this year as he moved back in with his dad, Scott McLeod Sr., and embraced his role in the offense.
“Somebody cared about him. Somebody was reaching out to him, and I think just that he felt like somebody now cares, and that started the turn,” Souza said.
“We talk about him catching touchdowns and stuff, but for anyone who comes to the game, watch him block. Watch him block on every play. He’s a devastating blocker, he’s tenacious, and those are the unselfish things that we’ve seen develop in Scotty. It wasn’t always like that,” Akana said.
“This year, I’m kind of, I’m more selfless instead of all about me. When I want to see my brothers running, I just think of it as protecting them,” McLeod said.
McLeod is leading the state with 11 touchdown catches. At 6 feet 2 inches tall and 220 pounds, many are hoping his growth between the ears will lead to another scholarship opportunity — at a Division I college.
“I think he can be a real role model for other students. It’s not easy. He’s slipped and then he picks himself up again. Nobody’s perfect, but from freshman year to this year, he’s come a long way,” Souza said.
“Every day I wake up, I think of college,” McLeod said.
McLeod will get his chance to impress at the Polynesian Bowl on Jan. 20, 2018.
Other players from Hawaii invited are Saint Francis safety Wembley Mailei, Kamehameha defensive end Jonah Welch, Saint Louis offensive lineman Eliki Tanuvasa, defensive backs Isaiah Tufaga & Kama Moore, Crusader linebacker Noa Purcell, Punahou offensive lineman Alama Uluave, Kahuku defensive end Samson Reed, Waianae linebacker Kana’i Mauga & running back Rico Rosario, ‘Iolani receiver Justin Genovia along with three players from Kapolei being DE Kukea Emmsley, LB Rocky Savea, and DT Aaron Faumui, Kailua offensive lineman Sione Veikoso, Mililani offensive lineman Noah Williams, as well as Pearl City defensive lineman Zion Tupuola-Fetui.
Every Thursday two local standouts will be announced to the game’s roster with the Hawaii Prep World revealing a player at noon Hawaii time.
The second weekly player will be announced on Cover2 Hawaii High School Football Weekly, which airs Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. on KHON2.