(Story by Taylor Kennedy)
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Former Kanawha Valley performer Chance Knox finished his first season at the Virginia Military Institute back in April. Knox excelled at the wide receiver and kick returner position, but he believes there is still room for improvement.
“When you get into college it is a big mental game,” said the former All-MSAC member. “When I stepped in back in August I had to learn the plays, film, and become a smarter player. That way whenever I got onto the field, I could get more open and elevate my game.”
The Southern Conference had a late start to their season due to the pandemic. Teams waited until the end of winter and the beginning of spring to begin the season. VMI began its season in February and went until April.
“It was hard at first,” noted Knox on playing later compared to the traditional way. “When we came in August, we got six or seven practices in before they told us that the season would be postponed. At first, everyone was down about it. We did not know. There was a lot of uncertainty. Looking back, I appreciate it. Coming in as a freshman, I had to learn a lot of stuff, and it helped me elevate my game since we practiced all fall.
“When I got into the spring, I did not feel like a freshman anymore. I could play as if I was already there for a year.”
The time that Knox spent with each of his coaches allowed him to grow as a student-athlete. The 5-10 freshman has always been thankful that the coaches have been in his corner from day one.
“They were the first ones to believe in me,” the Charleston native stated. “They gave me a shot. I am a small kid from West Virginia. I am always appreciative of them. When I stepped in, they were giving me shots and that is all that I could ask for. I took that opportunity, and they continued to believe in me. When my name was called, I went out there and made plays for them.”
Knox concluded his tenure at Capital High School as a Swiss Army knife. He served as a wide receiver, returner, and sometimes got carries in the backfield. He finished his senior year with 1,124 all-purpose yards, including 542 receiving yards, 365 rushing yards, and 217 return yards.
“The speed of the game,” said Knox on the biggest adjustment from high school to college football. “It is so fast, especially with our offense. We run the air raid offense. We do not huddle. We get on the ball immediately following the last play. The practice was a big thing for me. The speed in practice helped the game slow down for me since we ran 90 plays in practice. We are getting after it every day. There are no days off.”
Knox made a name for himself in the first game of the season against No. 10 Furman. He caught his first career collegiate touchdown wearing red and yellow. The Keydets upset the Paladins 14-13.
“We had drawn that play up all week,” said the freshman receiver. “We were trying to get me lost in the sauce as we call it. We were down at that point late in the game. We needed a spark. Reece [Udinski], my quarterback, threw it up. I honestly felt like the ball was in the air forever. I did not think it was going to come down. Once I finally caught it, there were a lot of emotions running through me. I look up in the stands and my parents are there.
“Ultimately, it got the team the lead, and our defense did a great job stopping them late in the game.”
VMI qualified for the FCS playoffs, finishing the season with a 6-2 record. Knox caught 29 passes for 264 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Knox has three months until he retakes the field for VMI. During these next three months, he is focused on improving to continue helping his team.
“Getting stronger,” said Knox on what he wants to improve on this offseason. “There are big guys out there. It is not high school. There are always guys bigger, stronger, and faster than you. That is a big thing for me, which is getting stronger and putting weight on. I need to put more muscle on that way so I can be able to take those hits. As a team, we got goals for next year. We had a great season last year, but we have even bigger goals next year.”
The Keydets open up their 2021 season at home against Davidson on September 4th.