Scott Phaydavong is a former Division I college and professional football running back from Des Monies, Iowa. While at Drake University Scott rushed for over 5,000 yards and went on to play professionally for the Schwäbisch Hall Unicorns in the German Football League. He is the first known professional football player of Lao descent in the world.
Photo courtesy of Drake University Athletics
Won't Take "No" for an Answer
The answer is “No”. That is what Scott Phaydavong heard when he asked his parents if he could join the 8th grade football team. If it didn’t have to do with education or putting food on the table, it didn’t need to be done.
Scott’s father, Kou Phaydavong, was a member of the Royal Lao Army from Pakse who was sent to an internment camp after the war. He was able to escape from the camp and swim across the Mekong River and seek refuge in a Thai refugee camp. While in the refugee camp he met his wife Kham Phanh (Kham), a fellow refugee, from the capital city of Vientiane. The couple was sponsored by Des Moines Fellowship Church and set off for a new life in Iowa.
Scott is the fifth of six siblings and his older brothers were not allowed to do sports growing up. His parents insisted that education be the priority and did not see any value in sports. Scott’s two oldest brothers were both natural athletes and excelled when they finally;y joined the Des Moines East High School track team. One even earned an athletic scholarship to Iowa State University. Scott’s parents opened up to the idea of track and cross country but after one of Scott’s brothers injured his knee playing football, they weren’t interested in seeing the Phaydavong name on another jersey. After being denied permission to play in 8th grade Scott somehow convinced his parents to let him try when he entered Des Moines East High. “My parents never wanted me to do it but I made a deal with them. If I kept my grades up they would let me do it”, Scott said.
Scott used that as motivation and maintained his end of the bargain by pulling straight A’s all through high school. Still, his parents didn’t attend a single game for his first three years at East. After the Phaydavong name began appearing in local media and Scott became the talk to the local Lao community they opened up to the idea and began attending all of his games. “It was kind of enlightening seeing that old school Lao parents who were tough on my older brothers, then tough on me kind of evolve and change over time to this American Lao family,” Scott said.
During his senior year Scott led Des Moines East to victory over the undefeated two-time defending State Champions, Dowling Catholic, and helped take the team to their first playoff appearance in over a decade. That put Scott on the radar of several colleges. He first committed to the U.S. Airforce Academy but after one month at the Prep school in Colorado Springs, he decided to return home to Des Moines. He was an excellent fit for Drake’s run-oriented offense which relied heavily on play-action. Scott headed into his freshman year as a second-string running back but was quickly promoted to the starting lineup when starter DeCarlos Love went out with an injury after the first game. That year he rushed for over 1,500 yards, breaking the single season rushing record and secured the Bulldogs a Pioneer League Championship. The all American capped of an all-star career with the Bulldogs having broken numerous records including all-time leading rusher (5,830 yards), most yards in a season (1,613), longest run (82 yards), most career carries (925) and most 100-yard games (31).
Despite his accomplishments at 5’6” and 165 lbs Scott was too small to catch the attention of an NFL team but the German Football League (GFL) came calling. He initially rebuffed their recruiting efforts in favor of following his passion for teaching and coaching but the Schwabisch Hall Unicorns persisted. Scott had settled into a teaching position at his alma mater, Des Moines East, and had an assistant coaching position at nearby Urbandale High. “When I was teaching, I had that urge to play again,” said Scott. He decided to join the Unicorns and left for Germany in April of 2009.
The Schwabisch Hall Unicorns play in the First Tier of the GFL which is the highest level of play in Germany. At that time the Unicorns were one of the lowest-ranked teams in the league. In an effort to preserve opportunities for locals the GLF limits the number of non-European Union citizens and specifically limits American players. Scott was one of a handful of American’s allowed on the roster and they all lived together in Germany. In 2009 Scott led the Unicorns to their first Southern Division Championship. To this day the team’s Wikipedia page references the 2009 season as a great success.
Scott took full advantage of the opportunity to live in Europe by traveling the continent with his high school sweetheart (now wife), Amanda. During his time in Europe, he was even able to reconnect with family living in France.
Scott returned to the United States and pursued a Master’s Degree in Education Administration at Chadron State College in Nebraska. While studying he accepted a Graduate Assistant position as running back coach for the Chadron Eagles football team. After completing his degree, he returned to coaching at the high school level.
Scott currently lives in Altoona, Iowa, with his wife Amanda and their two children, Scottie and Andre. In addition to coaching football and track at Southeast Polk High school, Scott teaches middle school physical education. Southeast Polk currently hosts some of the top prospects in the state of Iowa including safety Xavier Nwankpa and offensive tackle Kadyn Proctor. They won the 2021 Iowa 5A State Championship. Little Scottie just started playing football so be sure to keep an eye on our rising stars section!