Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Where You At?: "MidKnight" Marcus Knight Edition


The Where You At? series continues with a profile of former Michigan wide receiver Marcus Knight.

Michigan churns out a lot of professional players at every position, but arguably the strongest position for the Wolverines in recent memory is wide receiver. Michigan has produced top-10 picks in Desmond Howard, David Terrell, and Braylon Edwards, as well as a cast of tremendous collegiate wideouts, from Amani Toomer through Mario Manningham. Michigan may not be known as Wideout U, but it might as well be.

With all of those high profile receiving alumni, Marcus Knight's name gets lost in the discussion of best Michigan wideouts. Although he only really had an impact during his junior and senior seasons, Knight was a tremendous deep threat who averaged more than 17 yards per catch over his career. Although he was overshadowed during his career by Tai Streets and the aforementioned Terrell, Knight put up solid numbers and was a more-than-capable second option in 1998 and 1999.

Knight grew up in the small Alabama town of Sylacauga, where there was tremendous pressure on him to play for either Alabama or Auburn. He even had an older brother, Damien Jeffries, who had played for 'Bama. However, he bucked the trend of most southern high schoolers and went north to Michigan, choosing the Wolverines over the Crimson Tide on signing day. According to Knight, it all came down to a gut feeling:
"On signing day I had both of the scholarships in front of me,'' Knight said. "I had them in my hand, both FedExed to me. Me and a friend took them in the bathroom. And I just had the feeling Michigan was the scholarship I needed to sign. It came down to signing day.''
However, stuck behind Streets, Russell Shaw, and even cornerback Charles Woodson on the receiving depth chart, Knight had little impact in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, tallying only seven total catches during his first two campaigns. After his sophomore season, Knight seriously considered transferring back to Alabama, with the hopes of getting more playing time in his home state. Michigan had just signed two blue chip recruits, Terrell and Marquise Walker, at receiver, and Knight would have to earn his spot on every snap despite being an upperclassman.
"After my sophomore year I was thinking about transferring just because of the fact that I wasn't having the success I should have in college football,'' Knight said. "I was pretty close. That was my plan, to go and try to get with Alabama, see if I could get back to the state of Alabama.''
Instead of transferring, Knight stuck it out. His decision would be rewarded on week one of the 1998 season, when Knight hauled in five catches for 126 yards against Notre Dame, solidifying his spot as the starting receiver opposite Streets. Knight would finish the season with 42 catches for 603 yards and a touchdown, including a seven catch, 116 yard performance in the Wolverines' game against Ohio State. Knight's breakout season gave him confidence, and a bit of swagger that was missing his first two years:
"Believe it or not, Marcus Knight has been waiting to do this for a long time," Marcus Knight says in the third-person, a telltale sign of an athlete who knows how to throw clich├ęs to the press while still sounding cool at the same time. "It's just that things weren't working out the way I'd have liked."
Marcus Knight probably liked the way Marcus Knight caught this ball (photo from michiganfansite.com).

Knight improved upon his solid 1998 performance with a great 1999 season. Despite once again being the second option, with Terrell stepping in for Streets, Knight came up big time and again for the Wolverines in his senior year. He put together three straight 100-yard games (Purdue, @ Michigan State, Illinois) and finished the season with 794 yards and six touchdowns, while posting a stellar 20.4 yards per catch average. Fittingly, Knight ended his Michigan career playing against Alabama. He tallied three catches for 28 yards against his hometown team as the Wolverines won a classic Orange Bowl matchup against the #5 team in the country. Knight earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, as well as the Bob Ufer Award, given to the senior who shows the most love and enthusiasm for the Michigan program, which is a pretty big turnaround for a guy who almost transferred halfway through his career.

After going undrafted by the NFL, Knight spent the 2000 season on the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. In 2001, he made the team in training camp, and appeared in five games without registering any statistics. In 2002, he earned his place on the Raiders, returning 29 kickoffs for 705 yards, a solid 24.3 yard average. Knight also recorded the only three receptions of his career. The highlight of his NFL career came in the Super Bowl, when he got to return eight kickoffs for 143 yards. Unfortunately, that was because the Raiders got absolutely shellacked by the Buccaneers, but at least he got the ball a lot.

Knight (83) returns a kickoff in Super Bowl XXXVII

In 2003, Knight was allocated by the Raiders to their NFL Europe team, the Amsterdam Admirals. He earned All-NFL Europe honors, catching 40 passes for 546 yards and five touchdowns. However, this was not enough for the Raiders to take him back, and in 2004, he was back on an NFL practice squad, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Knight would not earn a callup to the NFL again, and decided in 2005 to take his game to the Arena Football League. He joined the Philadelphia Soul, where he was third on the team in receiving with 65 catches, 886 yards and 23 touchdown (remember, this is the Arena League). In 2006, after spending half the season with the Soul, he was moved to the Columbus Destroyers, where he went from being an offensive specialist to a wide receiver/linebacker (Arena League is weird, etc.). Knight spent the next season and a half with the Destroyers, before disappearing from the league after the 2007 season, presumably to do something that does not involve playing football in a padded box. Sometime in his Arena League career, Knight earned the moniker "MidKnight". I'm sure whoever thought of that thinks he/she is really, really clever.



Anonymous said...

we beat osu in '98?

Ace said...

Yikes...good call on that one.

oriental andrew said...
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