Thanks to Trevor Knight, Texas A&M fans are smiling a lot more these days. Thanks to George Knight, many of those smiles are also brighter.
“I’ve gotten a lot of new patients in my dental practice who are Aggies,” the latter said. “They want to come to the quarterback’s father for their dental care.”
Church is more fun these days, too, as his numerous A&M neighbors in San Antonio line up to slap a proud papa on the back. His boy has been a godsend for a football program that was in desperate need of a leader – and in return, the 17th-ranked Aggies have given the former Oklahoma QB exactly the fresh start he needed.
“It’s a perfect fit,” George said. “I knew it would be. As he was going through the process of trying to figure out where he wanted to go, I kind of counseled him that A&M was the place. I knew that they were having some turmoil and I told him, ‘If you can go in there, regardless of the win-loss record, and stabilize the locker room at Texas A&M for the future, people are going to notice. It will go so far in establishing the kind of leader that you are.’ ”
It might also save coach Kevin Sumlin’s job. Knight’s early impact, including the decisive Week 1 touchdown against UCLA, has changed the conversation around the Aggies (2-0). That conversation featured a lot of “hot seat” talk this summer.
A&M’s offense had taken a nose dive after Heisman winner Johnny Manziel left town, largely because of instability at quarterback. Three former blue-chip recruits and heirs apparent – Kenny Hill (TCU), Kyle Allen (Houston) and Kyler Murray (Oklahoma) – transferred in the span of a year.
Allen raised a red flag on his way out after last season, telling CBS Sports that a culture problem traceable to the Manziel era was poisoning the Aggies. Too many players believed “I can do whatever the hell I want and win on Saturday,” Allen said.
So yeah, Texas A&M needed Trevor Knight, the guy who spends most of his free time on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ speaking tour, sharing his faith in middle schools and hospitals and frat houses on campus. The guy who led three mission trips to Haiti while at Oklahoma and then rounded up a group of Aggies to come with him for a fourth this summer.
“He was able to do a whole lot of good for that football team before he ever took the field,” said David Wetzel, Knight’s high school coach. “But none of that surprises me at all, knowing the type of young man that he is. Trevor is an outstanding person. He can make the player that never plays feel great. He’s going to take care of the linemen and the defensive guys and he’s probably friends with the walk-ons. He’s just a guy that’s going to make everybody feel good about themselves. He’s an encourager.”
Importantly, though, he is also a good football player. That fact got lost a little when Heisman hopeful Baker Mayfield took Knight’s job last season and led Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff. But Knight did throw for 3,424 yards, rush for 853 yards and account for 33 touchdowns in three seasons with the Sooners.
He did complete 32-of-44 passes for 348 yards and four touchdowns in a Sugar Bowl stunner over Alabama – as a freshman. The guy can play.
“I hurt for him with some of the stuff that happened over the last couple years,” former OU center and Knight’s best friend Ty Darlington said. “The season we went 8-5, I felt like it was sort of unjustly placed on his shoulders from a fan perspective when it wasn’t really all his fault. And what he went through last year, losing a close quarterback competition to Baker and then have to watch somebody else become the hero, the guy.
“Watching him go through that with the strength and character that he did, when he told me he was going to leave, I knew it was right and it was time.”
For the Sooners, Knight was a talented insurance policy. For the Aggies, he might be the missing piece. A&M’s defense is dramatically upgraded under second-year coordinator John Chavis and led by potential No. 1 pick Myles Garrett. The receiving corps is one of the best in the country.
The Aggies just needed a trigger man.
“It was a situation that filled a void for him,” Sumlin said, “and obviously filled a void for us, too.”
Through two games – more like a game and a half, really – Knight has thrown for 583 yards, rushed for 109 yards and produced seven total touchdowns for A&M, including the game-winning run on fourth-and-goal in overtime against then-No. 16 UCLA. He looks rejuvenated.
“That right there is the greatest confidence builder I think a quarterback can have, if he’s not thinking about losing his spot, doesn’t have the threat of not being able to go back out there,” George Knight said. “That really allows you to go have fun.”
George texts that message to Trevor – and his twin brother Connor, still a fullback at Oklahoma – before every game: I love you. I pray for your safety. But most of all, have fun today.
The chance to do that again led Trevor back to Texas A&M, where he first committed as a high school recruit. Gus Malzahn, whose own quarterback problem will be on display Saturday against the Aggies, badly wanted Knight to transfer to Auburn. The Tigers finished a close second in the sweepstakes, George said.
But Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley helped seal the decision.
“Gave me some great advice. It was: ‘Don’t walk to something, run to something. If there is an opportunity you are running towards and you think it is great for your future, then take it,’ ” Trevor Knight said. “And I think Texas A&M was that, and since I’ve gotten there, everything has fallen into place.”
Dad’s dental business is booming and Aggies fans are smiling big again. So are Knight’s old friends back at Oklahoma – with a twinge of sadness.
“He mattered here,” Darlington said. “Regardless what people say about him on the field, he was significant off the field, in the people’s lives he impacted and the affect he had on campus. He definitely left a hole here.
“He’s not just a sports-team leader. He’s goint to be a leader in whatever he does. That’s why he had to leave here: It’s not in his makeup, in his DNA, to sit the bench. He’s one of those guys just born to lead.”