Goals have never been in short supply for Knox football, coming to fruition a piece at a time, but the team has been seeing their goals come into focus each Saturday this fall, win or lose. Coming off of a season where the majority of their losses came by less than a touchdown, every returning player had the goal of coming out to prove their team could finish and the 24 freshmen who joined them in September united the cause immediately.
Knox football was flush with returning starters and upperclassmen going into the season, in addition to their newly hired coaches Adam Keefer and Adam Reese, both making impacts on their respective corps since arriving on campus.
Junior linebacker Tyler Podwojski has been learning under Coach Keefer since last spring. “They’re both very motivated individuals and knowledgeable about their positions and are fun, energetic young guys that go well with the team. I’d say both the Adam’s are a great fit for the school,” he said.
Fellow linebacker and junior Mario Whitley shared a similar view of Keefer.
“Working with Coach Keefer is still like working with someone close to your age, which gives you the feeling that they’re relatable and feel the same way as you on some things, but they still become serious when they need to or they know we need it,” Whitley said.
Junior wide receiver Malik Hamilton has been a focal point of offensive output, averaging a score per game. He also provides a voice of leadership since getting back to his team after missing spring football, during which he participated in outdoor track.
“It’s definitely worth it, you know. Knowing that a lot of people who have left [the program] left because of the poor records, sticking with it and knowing that it does get better makes it feel like hard work does pay off. It really is the best feeling a person can have,” Hamilton said.
According to Hamilton, the team boasts a large class of freshmen who have shown up to play since their first arrivals.
“They all came in knowing they were gonna fight for playing time just because of how big their class and the team were, so they knew in order to play they had to show out and they really brought up the dogs from within and it still shows,” Hamilton said.
The bump in numbers has also lightened the load on the team in practice, allowing for more rest and fresher repetitions for the players in scrimmage situations.
Upperclassmen leadership extends deep into both sides of the ball for the Fire, namely in brothers Jacob and Tyler Paul, who have anchored the defensive trenches together for the last three seasons. Jacob, returning for his final year of eligibility as a fifth year senior, views the season as one of proving expectations.
“Expectations were pretty high, especially since last year we proved we could compete against teams like IC and Cornell, so we knew that we were expecting to beat them and compete with teams we usually wouldn’t,” Jacob Paul said.
The youngest of the Paul brothers, Tyler will be the final of his brothers to play football for Knox College and has been watching the team since adolescence.
“For us, seeing it since kids, always seeing Knox struggle for the most part and hopefully being on an upturn, it just feels really good to get to be a part of it,” he said.
The football team will look to continue its winning ways against Illinois College this weekend, before returning home to take on Cornell College in a homecoming clash a week later.