College Football: John Knox
SALISBURY — Put in a call to University of Charleston quarterback John Knox, and Knox may not answer his phone.
His unoffical and unpaid secretary — UNC safety Darien Rankin — probably will.
“Hey, it’s for you, John,” the deep-voiced Rankin barks cheerfully.
Knox, Rankin and their third Musketeer, UNC running back/returner Romar Morris, remain inseparable — at least in the summer when they all have some down-time.
Knox has been able to sharpen his passing skills this summer with Morris, who can fly, and Rankin, who can sky, functioning as the targets for his workout aerials.
“Yeah, it’s been nice throwing to those two guys,” Knox said with a chuckle.
It won’t be long until Rankin and Morris will be back on TV wearing light blue in ACC games.
Knox’s profile is now considerably lower than that of the two buddies he teamed with to fill the trophy case at Salisbury High with hardware. While Rankin and Morris are taking on Miami and Pitt, Knox will be tangling with the likes of Shepherd and Shaw in front of a lot fewer people.
“I’ve been working out, getting a lot of rest and eating good, and I’ll be reporting back to school August 11,” Knox said. “That’s when we start camp.”
When Knox returns to the picturesque mountain of West Virginia, he’ll compete for the starting quarterback job at Division II Charleston. That competition will include fellow North Carolinian Maurice Leak (Parkwood), last year’s starter, and a handful of other hopefuls.
“I quarterbacked the first team in our spring game back in April, but Maurice was hurt then,” Knox said. “Maurice and I get along well and I’ve met him down in Concord for some workouts this summer, but we’ll be battling for a position in a few weeks. The coaches also have talked to me about playing some slot receiver to get us both in the game, so I believe I’ll be on the field a lot this year.”
While the 5-foot-11 Knox doesn’t have Rankin’s height and hops or Morris’ unbelievable wheels, he’s a tremendous athlete in his own right.
When Knox, Rankin and Morris were seniors in the 2010 football season, Knox rushed for 1,041 yards, threw for 1,184 and accounted for 22 touchdowns as Salisbury won the 2AA state championship. Knox’s 3,200 passing yards and 5,496 yards of total offense are school records that could last a while.
A three-sport athlete, who was good at all three for four years, Knox’s Salisbury football, basketball and baseball teams tasted victory 180 times, which probably gives him yet another school record.
“He’s a winner, and if you have John on your team you have a chance to beat anybody in anything,” Salisbury baseball coach Scott Maddox said. “He’s a natural leader, and I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like him. People just gravitate to him.”
Knox had hoped to try baseball in college, but his football obligations in the spring have taken priority. Still, he hasn’t forgotten how to swing a bat. When Maddox brought in alumni for an intrasquad game this baseball season, Knox promised a homer on his first at-bat — and then smacked a soaring rocket over the center-field fence at Robertson Stadium,
“I do miss baseball,” Knox said. “Basketball too. I miss them every day.”
Overwhelming success hasn’t come overnight in college football, but it should be only a matter of time. Knox redshirted his first year in Charleston. He was the No. 2 quarterback in 2012 for a 9-2 team, and when he got opportunities, he cashed in — including a 99-yard TD pass.
Twice, Knox rushed for 93 yards in a game. He also threw for 145 or more yards six times and accounted for seven TDs. He finished the season with 84 rushes for 427 yards and 64 completions for 932 yards, pretty serious numbers for a redshirt freshman backup.
Charleston, which was built around a stout defense and a running back who signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, wasn’t far from being 11-0, instead of 9-2. The losses were 14-10 and 16-10.
Charleston’s 2013 season begins in North Carolina — a Sept. 7 game at Shaw. After that, comes a tough trip to Southern Illinois.
Knox is ready for those challenges and for a new season.
“John is one of those guys that when you see him practice he only looks like a pretty good player,” Maddox said. “But then the game starts and you start wondering how in the world he does the things he does.”