Paxson is diabetic. He has to pay close attention to his blood sugar or he can become drowsy, lethargic or worse.
“You've always got to monitor yourself,” he said. “It's a lot different from being normal. On game day, your emotions are running quick, and it plays a lot of games with your blood sugar. Last week was hot, so you sweat a lot more, you lose a lot. It's just something you always have to be cautious about.”
Paxson has hardly looked lethargic so far this season. The Philadelphia native made a career-high seven tackles in the Nittany Lions' opener against South Florida, a game he didn't even start.
Paxson was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes when he was a sophomore at Roman Catholic High. At the time, his biggest concern was whether he would be able to continue playing sports. His doctor told him he would be fine as long as he monitored his condition. While in high school, with his parents keeping a close eye on him, he did just that.
But when he came to Penn State in 2001, his discipline waned. He skipped meals, fell out of his routines, and as a result his blood sugar would plummet. Said Paxson: “I got careless. I just wasn't living the way I should have been living.”
With the help of his teammates and coaches, Paxson grew more diligent. These days, he is careful not to miss any meals. He tests his blood sugar several times a day to make sure his insulin level is where it needs to be. If he needs a shot, he is not squeamish about administering his medication. His roommates help him too. He's usually outgoing, so if he seems sluggish or quiet, they remind him to check his blood sugar.
Joe Paterno said he believes Paxson could serve as a role model for other diabetic athletes.
“A lot of us don't realize how many people have diabetes,” Paterno said. “There is no reason Scott can't be a great football player in spite of it, but he has to have a lifestyle that is a little bit more disciplined than yours or mine. If he does that, he will be a heck of a football player on this level or the next level.”
Paxson has had other problems during the course of his career. He missed practice this past spring along with several other players after he was implicated in the “arrowgate” incident in which a number of arrows were fired through the wall of an on-campus apartment into an adjoining unit. No one was hurt, and charges were later dropped against Paxson and offensive linemen Tyler Reed and Andrew Richardson. But that didn't stop Paterno from fuming.
“He felt we should have been leaders,” Paxson said. “He felt like he couldn't trust us. He was upset on a personal level. But he talked to us, and I wouldn't say he hated us, but he just felt like on a personal level we should have been guys who were leaders. We should have helped people get out of trouble instead of being part of the problem.”
Paxson, who has also had academic difficulties at Penn State, didn't start the season opener against South Florida but came on in relief when Jim Shaw suffered a knee against the Bulls. He started last week's game against Cincinnati and is listed first on this week's depth chart.
Paxson said he's put his off-the-field problems behind him, noting that “I never felt like I was in Joe's doghouse.” As for his health, he said he has no complaints about the hand he's been dealt.
“There are so many other people out there who have less than me,” he said. “I'm getting an education at Penn State University, and I'm playing football every Saturday. I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to survive.”
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