Paxson facing most important month of life

Scott Paxson loves everything about Penn State. He loves State College, Happy Valley and Joe Paterno. But because of pending assault charges, which he once dubbed "bogus," he couldn't wait to get out of town.

Before joining the Pittsburgh Steelers as an undrafted rookie free agent, Scott Paxson was a two-year starter at defensive tackle at Penn State, but he felt like he has been wronged by the community.

Hanging over Paxson's head are a felony charge of aggravated indecent assault and a misdemeanor charge of indecent assault in connection with the alleged assault of a former Penn State student in December 2004.

The aggravated indecent assault charge brings a sentence of a maximum of 10 years in prison and the indecent assault charge has a maximum of two years. Paxson has denied the charges.

"I can't believe something someone says, people's accusations, go this far ... especially a bogus one," Paxson said.

A woman alleges that Paxson had non-consensual sex with her in his Nittany Apartments residence 19 months ago. During testimony, the woman told the court that although she didn't tell Paxson "no" before and during intercourse, she thought her body language was an indicator of her unwillingness to have sex with him. She also said she did not yell out for help even though Paxson's roommate and the roommate's girlfriend were in the apartment.

An earlier felony charge of sexual assault was thrown out April 13 at a preliminary hearing on the ruling that the commonwealth didn't present enough evidence to prove that the woman was opposed to having sex with Paxson. Paxson's father, Jeffrey, claims that documents were hidden from District Attorney Michael Madeira when he made the decision to prosecute his son in March.

Now, a Centre County judge has imposed a gag order on all parties involved in the case and delayed the former Nittany Lion's trial from June until the August term of court.

"It was tough right from the get go, the beginning," Paxson said before the gag order was in place. "The situation was bogus and I can't believe it got that far. At the beginning it might have been tough but it is getting better now."

Paxson knows he'll be facing an uphill battle to make the roster of the defending Super Bowl champions as a rookie free agent, but it might become impossible now that the trial is set for August, the time the Steelers will be at training camp. If Paxson has to leave to stand trial during camp, he may be released by the Steelers.

"It's going to hurt me, it's definitely going to hurt me," Paxson said. "But you have to overcome something like that and bounce back from it. It feels nice to get out of that town and get a fresh start here in Pittsburgh. It's a new start. I loved Penn State, but I just needed a new start."

The 6-foot-5, 285-pound defensive lineman is playing nose tackle behind Casey Hampton and Chris Hoke, but can also help as a rotational defensive tackle or two-gap lineman.

Last year, when the Nittany Lions finished 11-1 and were ranked No. 3 in the country, Paxson was a key part of Penn State's defense. He notched 25 solo tackles, assisted on 19 more and recorded three sacks. However, Paxson made a name for himself as a junior when he led the nation with five blocked kicks.

He hopes to make somebody take notice of him starting in camp and at any position the team wants.

"Especially at my position I will do anything to enhance my status," Paxson said. "If they let me get on special teams I am going to bust my butt and do the best I can. I want to be an NFL player."

It's an ambition that once seemed like a long shot. Paxson was slowed in high school by the onset of Type I, or juvenile, diabetes at the age of 15. Paxson was diagnosed after a series of warning signs that included him collapsing before one of his games as a freshman.

"You have to keep a close eye on it but I never missed a game because of it," Paxson said. "If you don't take care of it can kill you, let's face it."

Paxson now has his sights on making the team. "It's going to be a really big challenge," he said. "If you ask me today, I'll say my goal is to make the team. If I make the team, my next goal will be to get on the field and contribute. My mindset is I am not really going to worry what other people are doing. I plan on doing the best that I can do."

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