By Rob Gray
AMES — Jake Knott clutched his cell phone last Saturday, surrounded by family and friends, hoping his hand wouldn’t sense a vibration and his ears wouldn’t discern a ring.
It was a momentous day — the decorated former Cyclone linebacker learned for sure if he had made the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster as an undrafted free agent.
Naturally, the two-time all-Big 12 performer eased the tension at an appropriate site: Jack Trice Stadium.
“It’s basically, you don’t get a call, and that’s a good thing,” said Knott, who will make his NFL debut in Monday’s 6 p.m. matchup with Washington at FedEx Field. “They announced their roster and I was on it. It was pretty exciting for the family and everything. Then again, I still had to remind everybody that it’s the NFL and it could still really change at any time.”
That’s Jake Knott the realist talking.
He’s now fully immersed in the “here today, gone tomorrow” world of professional football — where a lifetime of lassoing doubt-draped dreams sometimes encounters an insurmountable spread.
“You just have to hold onto hope and pray that they keep you around,” said Knott, one of seven Cyclones, including longtime teammate and friend A.J. Klein at Carolina, on NFL depth charts.
Not necessarily in that order.
Knott clearly played his way into a roster spot.
He led the Eagles with 17 tackles in the preseason, while forcing a fumble and notching a half-sack of Tim Tebow.
“Whenever they need me out there and whatever they need me to do, I’ll go do,” Knott said.
Knott’s listed as a backup to 2012 second-round draft pick Mychal Kendricks and looks to see early time on special teams units.
“He’s got an instinct and nose for the football,” Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly told reporters last month. “He just seems to be around it a lot.”
Knott saw similar attributes in younger brother, Luke, during ISU’s opening-game 28-20 loss to Northern Iowa.
Luke Knott, a redshirt freshman with the Cyclones, was a high school quarterback, but notched six tackles along with a pass breakup in part-time duty against the Panthers.
“He did his job just about every play and that’s all you can ask, especially out of a younger guy,” Jake said. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement, obviously, but I think it’s fun watching him out there. He definitely has a grasp of the game and that’s a credit to (defensive coordinator Wally) Burnham and coach (Paul) Rhoads for making the transformation from offense to defense like that.”
The same coaches, along with many others, contributed to Jake Knott’s ascension from barely-recruited, wide-eyed freshman linebacker to one of ISU’s most celebrated players.
Knott’s taken that support and run with it.
Make that fly — as an Eagle swooping across a boundless sky; wary of every cloud lurking on the horizon, poised to take a corrective course.
“It’s just making sure every single play I have the right technique; I’m taking the perfect angle, I’m being physical and getting off blocks.” Knott said. “It’s part of doing your job but it’s also part of figuring out how to do your job. So it’s tough, but that’s one of the things, if you want to be a good football player, you’ve got to do.”
*Also, find the Cyclone Country podcast that includes an interview with Knott here.