'Gifted' Knight can handle pressure

NORMAN, Okla. -- Trevor Knight had this saying he'd recite every time his high school team arrived to an opponent's stadium.

"Before we get off this bus," Knight would stand and say, "let's make sure we get back on it with a 'W.' "

According to his San Antonio (Texas) Reagan High School coaches and teammates, Knight will bring that same cool, confident leadership -- and much more -- this spring to Oklahoma's first quarterback competition in six seasons.

"He's a true leader," said Knight's high school offensive coordinator and position coach, Jason Thomasson. "True, not fake. His enthusiasm is real. His rallying of the troops is real. Some kids have to force it. Not him.

"For that reason he had the respect of everyone, and really was the heart and soul and leader of our football team."

Two years ago, Knight proved to be one of the most prolific high school quarterbacks in the country, throwing for more than 2,000 yards and 27 touchdowns with just three interceptions, and rushing for almost 1,000 yards and another 15 touchdowns. Knight's intangibles, however, are what his ex-teammates remember most about him.

"He's infectious with his personality, his leadership, his character," said Knight's former left tackle Matt Beyer, who himself committed to play at OU before a spinal condition ended his football career. "He always demanded and strived for excellence, but he made football extremely enjoyable and created a great atmosphere at our program.

"Football is fun when you're playing with Trevor -- and he always made sure everyone had fun."

Football, for Knight, was fun. But it was serious business, too.

"If you messed up on the field, he would let you know about it," said Matt McCarthy, a former Reagan offensive lineman. "If you were late to practice or did something you weren't supposed to be doing off the field, he'd tell you you were wrong and that you needed to fix it."

When things were going wrong on the field, Knight was the one the rest of the team looked for, too.

After dominating the first two rounds of the playoffs Knight's senior year, Reagan struggled to a first-half tie with McAllen Memorial.

"We had kind of underestimated them, and I remember a lot of guys had their heads down in the locker room, and the coaches weren't saying much, either, because they were working on the game plan; you could feel that something wasn't right, and the guys were discouraged and worried," McCarthy recalled. "But Trevor gave one of the best halftime speeches I'd ever heard from a player, or even a coach, and rallied the guys together."

Knight followed up on the field, hitting Austin Hays (one of Oklahoma State's top receivers this past season) with a 56-yard touchdown pass four plays into the second half, spurring the Rattlers to victory.

"Trevor always stayed positive," McCarthy said. "You could count on him, and when there was pressure, he always performed well."

The pressure to perform will be on Knight again this spring.

Even though Knight had a head-turning freshman year making plays quarterbacking the scout-team offense, it won't be easy unseating Blake Bell from heir-apparent status. Then again, Knight just might have the skill set to pull it off. A skill set that Thomasson, Beyer and McCarthy all said reminds them of another quarterback who won a starting job as a redshirt freshman -- Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel.

"He's very gifted," said Thomasson, who had Knight running a hurry-up, shotgun attack that featured a heavy dose of zone-read. "He has a big arm, he can make every throw, but people don't realize how fast he is. He went 96 yards in a playoff game and was running away from the DBs. I don't know if he's as fast as (Manziel), but he's incredibly athletic, so athletic that he can make you look silly sometimes (something OU's first-team defense found out in the fall).

"Combine all that with his work ethic, and there's not a lot of things he can't do."

Including, perhaps, winning OU's next quarterback derby.