MOUNT VERNON – Everyone forgets Ben Knake has been a pass catcher most of his football life.
The Cornell College sophomore played quarterback at Lisbon High School two years ago, leading the Lions to the Class A state championship. That’s the position you remember him playing.
But once a receiver, always a receiver. Let’s just say leading the Midwest Conference in receptions isn’t as big a surprise as you would think.
“I played receiver my junior year of high school, so I knew what the position was about a little bit,” Knake said. “I didn’t know all the techniques and everything. The initial switch (in college) was kind of difficult, but I feel like I’m athletic enough to just be able to get something and go with it.”
He has gone with it alright.
Knake has 44 receptions for 488 yards and a pair of touchdowns for Cornell (4-3), which plays Saturday afternoon at Carroll (Wis.). Last season as a freshman, he led the Rams with 63 catches, chosen the school’s 2012 First-Year Male Athlete of the Year.
“He’s a heck of an athlete. He’s done a great job,” said Cornell Coach Vince Brautigam. “I think it took him about halfway through last season to really get comfortable with the college game. We can lean on him as a receiver. He has the capabilities to make someone miss, turn a short gain into a long one.”
“I think I’ve had a decent year, so far. Definitely there’s always room for improvement,” Knake said. “Coach critiques me on a lot of things. I’ve just got to listen to him, do everything his way and hopefully just continue to improve.”
The chances of improvement should increase with Knake solely focusing on football at Cornell. He played basketball for the Rams last season, averaging 2.2 points, but decided being a multi-sport athlete in college was a little too much.
He’ll miss hoops, but football is where his heart is the most.
“Best of luck to the basketball team. I hope they do great things this year,” Knake said. “This was just something I had to decide. I just want to focus on football. Playing here, I kind of lost a love for the game (basketball). I didn’t really want to harm the basketball team by being on the court and not being able to give 100 percent if my heart wasn’t there. I just thought it was best for the team if I focus more on football than basketball.”
Cornell lost a heartbreaker last week to St. Norbert and likely doesn’t have a shot at the Midwest Conference championship. But Brautigam has rebuilt the program, without question.
He’ll have his leading receiver back in the fold for two more years, and that’s a good thing.
“Right now, I’m not really looking at the stats,” Knake said. “he only stat I really care about is the win column. So I’m not really looking at the individual stuff. Those rewards will come at the end of the season. Right now, I’m just focused on winning games.”
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