Knight filling the gaps for Hubs football team

© 2017-Rochelle News-Leader

Rochelle junior playing on offense, defense and special teams

Rochelle junior Noah Knight doesn’t care where he lines up on the football field, so it’s no surprise that Hubs varsity head coach Kevin Crandall has used the 5-foot-10-inch, 160-pounder in a variety of different ways this season.

Knight has logged playing time on offense, defense and special teams this fall, and he’s made his presence felt wherever he’s appeared on the field. The junior recorded three catches for 79 yards and one touchdown as a receiver against the Morris Redskins, and he rushed for 109 yards and a touchdown from the wingback position in Rochelle’s victory over the Ottawa Pirates this past week.

Knight also returns punts for the Hubs, and he’s totaled 10 tackles while snagging one of Rochelle’s two interceptions this year. He spent time at cornerback earlier this season before cracking the starting lineup at free safety against Ottawa.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to get on the field and make plays,” Knight said. “It doesn’t really matter where I play as long as I can help my teammates out... I feel like I bring a lot of agility and quickness to the team.”

Knight is one of several players who helped the Rochelle sophomore football team finish 6-2 and win the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference in 2016. Meanwhile, the Hubs varsity football team went 6-5 while reaching the second round of the Class 5A playoffs. Many players are back from last year’s team, but Knight and his junior teammates are stepping up when needed, and Rochelle appears primed for another postseason push.

“I think we’re doing pretty good, but we have some tough teams coming up,” Knight said. “Our record doesn’t show how good we are… I think we bring a lot. We have some good skill players and some big linemen up front.”

A three-sport athlete who plays basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring, Knight began his football career in third grade. One of three athletic siblings including eighth-grader Ashley Knight and Rochelle senior Morgan Knight, the junior offered a simple explanation for why football is his favorite sport to play.

“A lot of my friends played flag football so I wanted to play with them,” Knight said. “I like football the most because I get to hit people… I like how I get to be closer with all of my teammates. I think we’ve become really close and we all know each other really well.”

Multiple sports can be physically taxing for some athletes, but Knight hardly ever seems to run out of energy when he’s in action. He said he works out three days a week with local personal trainer Tyrone Thomas to stay in shape, and his effort off the field has allowed him to reap rewards on the field. Knight leads Rochelle in receiving yards this season (135), and his 261 total yards rank fourth behind seniors Ehren Metzger, Alex Harvey and Noah Mershon.

“The pace of the game is a lot faster, and the game is a lot more physical than it was at the sophomore level,” Knight said. “I think I’ve adjusted to the pace and the level pretty well so far… We just have to take things week by week, and I think we’re focused on one week at a time and not looking too far ahead.”

Knight said his ultimate goal before graduating Rochelle Township High School is to win a state championship, and he also said he’s interested in studying engineering in order to pursue an opportunity with the United States Naval Academy, following in the footsteps of his great uncle Joel Johnson and his grandfather Russ Kelly, who served as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam.

“I’ve enjoyed getting to know everybody,” Knight said. “You get to know a lot of people not just in your sport, but in other sports when you see them in practices or walking around the halls.”