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Gold and Black Illustrated Volume 28, Digital 5

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GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED VOLUME 28, ISSUE 5 25 control how position coach Chris Barclay was going to div- vy up the opportunities among four competent backs. Knox could only control what he did when he got the opportunity. And his response was emphatic: He seized every one. Knox's 6.2 yards per carry led the team. His 561 rushing yards were five short of the team lead, being surpassed only in the finale by Markell Jones. His 15 catches and 138 re- ceiving yards led among his position group. His four total touchdowns were second among backs. That production was timely, especially as it allowed Knox to reveal his worth to a new position coach. But before Barclay even knew if Knox could deliver in key moments Saturdays, he'd already formed an opinion on the back. And he realized what many others already had: Knox's production, though important, may not be more valuable than his essence. "I think people recognize his passion for the game. It kind of oozes out of his skin," Barclay said. "He's a very fiery individual. I think guys just feed off his energy. "He's done everything right. Everything we ask of him, on and off the field. He's a model student-athlete. He's kind of everything you look for, and he just gives you everything he has. That's one thing I thought I noticed right away, before I noticed anything else about anybody in our group, was this kid goes hard every play. Whether doing individ- ual stuff on his own or it's a group setting, a team setting, he's giving everything he has. There's a lot of entitlement these days with a lot of kids. But that kid, I mean, it's like he's the 18th guy on the depth chart, and he's just trying to make the squad. That's refreshing." No one expects that to change for Knox's final season. His goals are high, especially considering Purdue's run- ning backs room still is packed with Jones, Richie Worship and Tario Fuller, but Knox always will believe his work will keep him at the front of the pack. So maybe he won't get the 1,000 yards rushing he envi- sions, maybe he won't snatch a bunch of passes, maybe he won't lead the room in game snaps, but he still will deliver a significant impact. He will break tackles based on sheer will. He will offer a game-changing play with his power. He will be a trend-setter in effort. He will not settle. He will crack a joke to break a mood. He will lighten the locker room with his playful pres- ence, one so valued by former interim coach Gerad Parker that he brought an injured Knox on road trips to spread the "juice." He will be the cause of another's record-breaking weight lift, by sheer encouragement-disguised-as-a-taunt, like, "Don't even put that weight on there. He's too weak." He will be a role-model in community leadership. That multi-faceted approach isn't by accident. Knox will continue to be what he's wanted to be for this program: A "renaissance man." "I just wanted to show the people who are older than me or younger than me, that you can be more than what ev- erybody expects you to be," Knox said. "And you can have fun doing it." Knox likely will be rewarded in at least one way for that holistic approach, even if it's just Knox being Knox. In simply being himself, his status has risen each year he's been with the Boilermakers. So entering his final season, several teammates said they'd be shocked if Knox wasn't selected as a captain. Hunte said, simply, Knox brings "everything" vital to that title. "He carries himself as a leader and as a captain should," Hunte said. "Academically, in the community, family-wise, everything you look for in a captain, he demonstrates those qualities. He's going to be that person they can go to when they need advice and when they're looking for a big play to happen. "I've been around him for a while, so I understand the type of person he is. He definitely demonstrates everything you look for in a captain and a leader and all the qualities past captains have had over the years." Hunte would know: He was a captain in his senior sea- son. So was Phillips, who also said Knox is the perfect choice for such an honor. "People around him believe in what he can do," Phil- lips said. "They can see through his work what he's about. That's what's being a captain is about. His teamwork, with his leadership abilities, with him being funny, with him being willing to help other people, they'll be able to follow him easily because he has the experience. He has the game experience, he knows what to do, he knows how to do it." j

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