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8F The Michigan Daily - Football Saturday - November 20, 1999
HE ALMOST LEFT. THE SEASON HE WON A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WAS HIS WORST
AS A WOLVERINE. BUT HE STAYED, AND NOW HE'S LEADING THE WOLVERINES ON AND
OFF THE FIELD. ALL SEASON, MARCUS KNIGHT'S LEADERSHIP HAS BEEN
November 20, 1999 -Fi;
AS OHIO STATE WRAPS UP AN UNCHARACTERISTICALLY POOR
CAPTAIN CHALLENGES HIS TEAMMATES TO STEP UP IN THE FINAL
WIN TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR A BOWL GAME, THE BUCKEYES LIMP IN
By Rick Freeman . Daily Sports Editor
By Andy Latack Q Daily Sports Editor
__ _ ,
A GUY LIKE
HARD AS HE IS, YOU DON'T WANT TO LET
HIM DOWN. YOU DON'T WANT TO LET
THAT OFFENSE DOWN.
- Michigan safely Tommy Hendricks
Thank God for Marcus Knight. Go
ahead, and thank Him. If you've
been a Michigan fan at all this sea-
son, or just a fan of success stories,
watch him play his final game at
Michigan Stadium today, and then thank
God. Without Knight's faith, Michigan
would be without the senior wide receiv-
er's six touchdowns and 21.3 yards per
catch this season.
Lost among the swagger and the
euphoria of Michigan's 1997 national
championship season was an unhappy
sophomore named Marcus Knight.
Knight caught three passes for
Michigan's most invisible 30 yards that
year - at least, that's according to
Michigan's media guide. Knight's two
catches against Indiana and one against
Minnesota are far down on the list of
memories from 1997. While everyone
was busy watching Charles Woodson and
Brian Griese, Knight was busy being
Ann Arbor was a long way from
Sylacauga, Ala., where Knight had
grown up watching Southeastern.
Conference football. Suddenly, playing
for Alabama, Tennessee or even Auburn
seemed a more attractive prospect.
Anywhere but Michigan.
"Something told me that this was the
place for me," Knight said. "I have a a
faith in my religion."
So he stayed. lie worked harder, which
seems to be the only way the senior wide
receiver knows how to work. He has
become a leader on a team he once was
prepared to leave for good.
He even does it on defense.
"He comes off the field and the first
thing he does is come over to the defen-
sive side," said senior safety Tommy
Hendricks. "We're getting ready to go
out there right before the kickoff, and
he'll come over and be like 'Come on,
After Tom Brady scored a touchdown
against Penn State last week, Knight was
there again, reminding the defense that
the offense needed the ball back if they
wanted to win.- Twenty-eight seconds
later, the Lions were punting.
"I just want to be in the defense's ear,"
Apparently, it worked. But Knight
wasn't finished. On third-and-10 from
Penn State's 35 after two Brady incom-
pletions, Knight leapt to catch a pass at
the 18 and willed his toe to stay
inbounds, giving Michigan a first down.
Knight kept the Wolverines alive long
enough for Brady to find him in the cor-
ner of the end zone for the game winner.
Afterward, Knight and cornerback Todd
Howard stayed on the field the longest,
slapping hands with the fans before they
ran up the tunnel together.
Knight has always led this way. That's
why the Wolverines' success this season
is a sweeter feeling than any thing he
experienced in that magical 1997 season.
He's not one to take a national champi-
onship lightly, but born leaders can't be
fully happy if they don't feel that they're'
pulling their weight.
And there seems to be no doubt among
Knight'seteammates thatnthat's exactly
what he is a born leader. After the
Wolverines' almost blew a 17-point lead
to Indiana, Knight spoke up.
"tie made a comment about refusing
to lose," said captain and nose tackle
Rob Renes. "It's not so much what he
says, it's when he says it. When things
are at their toughest for the team, he
steps up and says things."
"When he comes over, and he gets in
my face, it's like I owe it to him to go out
there and do the best job I can," said
Hendricks, a leader in his own right.
"Because I don't want to let him down. A
guy like Marcus, playing as hard as he is,
you don't want to let him down. You
don't want to let that offense down."
Leadership is in his blood. lie has to
lead by example even when he's provid-
ing an example for people he'll never
meet. Character is what you do when
nobody's looking - but now, everyone's
looking at Knight, Michigan's most dan-
gerous big-play receiver.
And it almost never happened. Erase
his catches from this season, and what is
Michigan left with? Erase all his blocks
(he loves throwing blocks) from the
Wisconsin game, and maybe the
Wolverines don't start 5-0. Erase him
and you erase a big part of the reason for
Michigan's success this season.
"Everyone's got a tremendous deal of
respect for Marcus," said quarterback
Tom Brady. "He just works as hard as he
possibly can, he never gives in. If you've
ever seen one of our summer runs, you
know it's a test. We do the (Michigan
Stadium) steps as many times as we can,
and some guys don't feel too good after
that, but Marcus always seems to be
ahead of the pack, saying the right things
and doing the right things."
Knight knows he's in the spotlight. He
knows people he has never met and
never will meet look up to him.
He knows that these people admire
him simply because he catches footballs
and wears a winged helmet.
."I know how big sports are to
America, to kids. You can do so much in
this business," Knight said. "It's a repu-
tation, it's a responsibility."
And responsibility is what makes
Knight's engine go. He stayed in Ann
Arbor this summer to make sure he can
graduate in four years. He felt bad in
1997 because he wasn't helping his team
win. He almost left, but he's glad he
"Thank God," Knight said. '".had the
faith to stay here."
uring his time at Ohio State,
fullback Matt Keller has gotten
N accustomed to a lot of things in
The bitter winters.
Theadroves of rabid fans who bleed
scarlet and gray.
The Buckeyes have enjoyed a
tremendous amount of success since
Kellerand the rest of Ohio State's
senior class began playing in 1996.
Twice they have finished the season
ranked second in the nation. They have
also won two Big Ten Championships.
But now Keller is having to get
used to a new -- and foreign -- feel-
After suffering just five defeats in
the last three years, the Buckeyes have
now reached that total in one disas-
trous season. At 6-5 overall and 3-4 in
the Big Ten, Ohio State visits Ann
Arbor needing a victory to even make
itself eligible for bowl play.
But although his senior season isn't
turning out the way he envisioned, that
isn't what bothers Keller. Teams get in
slumps. Losing streaks happen, even to
programs as storied as Ohio State.
What rubs Keller the wrong way is
the way some of his teammates are
dealing with the Buckeyes' hard luck.
"It's not everybody, but at times
there's this attitude like, 'I'm not going
to leave my heart out on the field,"'
Keller said. "There are players 'here
who would die for Ohio State. I just
wish there were more people like that
Ohio State could've certainly used
some of those people last week. The
Buckeyes hit the low point of the sea-
son, getting routed, 46-20, by Illinois
in Columbus. When Illinois comes
into Columbus and does that to the
Buckeyes - especially in the final
home gane for Keller and the rest of
the seniors - something's wrong.
"To win, you need a total team
effort," said Keller, who caught a 38-
yard touchdown pass in his final game
in Ohio Stadium. "You need 22 guys
willing to lay it on the line. Sometimes
we have to question that a little bit."
Ohio State coach John Cooper feels
the same way.
"We ought to be frustrated and
upset at the way we're playing,"
Cooper said. "We're not playing well
and I would hope we'd want to correct
Cooper tried to do just that by elim-
inating distractions in the week leading
up to Ohio State's grudge match with
Senior Tackle - a last-practice tra-
dition since 1913 where the outgoing
seniors hit the tackling dummy for the
IT'S NOT EVE RYBODY, BUT AT TIMES TH E RE'S TH I
A T TITU LIKE, 'I'M NOT GOI NG TO LEAVE MY H EAR
OUT ON THE FIELD.' THERE ARE PLAYERS HERE WH(
WOULD DIE FOR OHIO STATE. I JUST WISH THERE WEI
MORE PEOPLE LIKE THAT SOMETIMES.
-Oio State fullback Malt Keller
last time -- has been moved from Ohio
Stadium to the Woody Hayes Athletic
Center this year. Cooper did so to
remove some of the fanfare surround-
ing the event.
"We aren't making a big deal about
it anymore," Cooper said. "It's a tradi-
tion and you don't need to be in the
stadium with the loudspeaker. We have
great respect for the tradition and it
It's fitting that Senior Tackle will
not be as it was in years past, because
these are not the Buckeyes of years
past. But for Keller and those v
care, there's no shortage of mo
when they come to close out th
son in Ann Arbor.
"When it comes down to
Ohio State-Michigan," Keller $
the game everyone talks about
'Everyone's got a great deal of respect for Marcus,' says Michigan quarterback Tom Brady of the Wolverines'
senior leader. Knight has more touchdown catches, six, than any other Wolverine.
At a time when most Ohio State players seem to be throwing in the towel, fiery wide receiver Ken-Yon Rambo is one B
who continues to impress his teammates and Buckeyes coach John Cooper with his effort.