It wasn’t how Jeff Knox Jr. thought his second season would start.
He was coming off an outstanding rookie season with the Roughriders that saw him nominated as the team’s Most Outstanding Player, Most Oustanding Rookie and Most Outstanding Defensive Player. A high point in a very low 3-15 season, Knox survived the defensive purge of Chris Jones in late 2015 and earned his spot on the roster.
But he wasn’t starting.
Ahead of him was linebacker Samuel Egauvoen and there was much read into that move. It turns out that Knox was playing on two pulled groins.
“I give a lot of credit to our coaching staff,” Knox said. “Coach Jones, he’s smart about it. If he would have played me earlier in the season I wouldn’t have made it to the end of the season.”
But as the team put up one, then two and then three losses in a row, it got harder and harder for Knox to stomach spending so much time on the sidelines.
“You just want to go out there and play for your team and help your teammates win ball games … and I just felt so sad I wasn’t playing as much.”
But his drive to win and to play through his injury while he healed didn’t go unnoticed by his coach.
“He’s played hurt all 18 games this year, people don’t even know what he had to go through and play and he played every down (November 5) and played his butt off,” Jones said of the linebacker during his end of the season press conference on Monday.
Knox is set to become a free agent in February and has made it known that he’d like to take a shot at the NFL before deciding on his future in the green and white. Jones said he’d support Knox the whole way through, despite wanting him back as a Roughrider.
“Quite honestly I’ll do everything in my power to help the kid because he’s been loyal to me,” he said, adding he’s making calls on the linebacker’s behalf.
“It’s been a dream since I was freaking five years old,” Knox explained of his NFL aspirations. “But if that don’t happen I’d love to come back (to the Riders).”
It’s because he’s seen the potential the team has going into next season. Knox said he knew this year would be tough and that the team was rebuilding, but the fruit of their labour is finally showing.
“I think we’ll definitely be a playoff potential team with our coach(es) because they work hard,” Knox said. “They’re not going to let it go as they did this season.”
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