The Wait is Over for Knapp

Though he signed a letter of intent to Arizona State University in 2007 among a class of more highly touted prospects such as Omar Bolden, Samson Szakacsy, Kerry Taylor and a group of talented junior college transfers, tight end Dan Knapp has steadily remained a player from that class that coaches and team officials believe has as bright a future as any.

After redshirting as a true freshman, Knapp, a native of Reno, Nev., began to actualize some of his potential and made an early impact in 2008, catching three passes for 29 yards, including an early-season touchdown against Stanford, in six games with two starts. However in that sixth game, which he started at USC, Knapp suffered a knee injury that would not only prematurely end his redshirt freshman season, but also carried into the 2009 calendar year and prevented Knapp from being able to participate in spring drills.

Injuries are generally considered to be an expected part of collegiate athletics, but to a student-athlete that had never experienced a serious athletic injury; the process can certainly be daunting.

"Being injured sucked, to be honest," confesses Knapp. "I've never gone through an injury like that and never had surgery. It's been a nine moth process to get back to 100 percent and it was a tough process but I got through it."

With the most physically and mentally challenging aspects of rehabilitation behind him, Knapp, who earned all-state honors while at Reno (Nev.) High School, is on the doorstep of his sophomore season with nearly a clean bill of health and is focused on returning to the starting lineup for the Sun Devils.

"Our trainers did a great job helping me get back to full strength," commends Knapp. "I have to give them kudos because I was receiving help six days a week for months. I'm still in there every day trying to get better and they help out a lot."

With his focus primarily on the football field and not on regaining physical health, Knapp finds himself in a position to compete for one of ASU's top spots at tight end. With the departures of Andrew Pettes and Wes Evans from last year's roster, two players who saw ample time at the position in 2008, Knapp has the talent to serve as one of the Sun Devils' primary tight ends, a position group that will be steadily involved in both the running and passing game in 2009.

"The tight ends are a crucial part of the offense," states Knapp. "In the offense that we run, there are a bunch of check-downs to the tight ends; we are the go-to guys in some plays. Our offense has changed a lot since last year, It's kind of like a ‘help me help you' type of thing; (the tight ends) help out the tackles who help us out and we work together to help out the running backs and the quarterback. I think the tight ends are a key part of the offense."

Measuring 6-5, 258-pounds, Knapp is perhaps has the best overall size among the tight ends on the roster and prides himself on his blocking skills, an attribute that complements the athletic mismatch that fellow tight end Jovon Williams, who earned most of the first-team repetitions in the spring, provides to the offense. Williams, who refers to Knapp as the ‘big bruiser,' combines with Knapp for a possible one-two punch at tight end that supportively blends both on and off the field.

"Jovon Williams reminds me of (former ASU tight end) Tyrice Thompson," recalls Knapp. "Jovon is going to go out there and run similar routes and make plays for us. We have a couple of multiple tight end sets that we will use so we'll both be on the field at the same time, where he'll play a shifting type of tight end role and run routes while I block for him. I'd love for Jovon to catch the ball and then meet up with him down the field while lead blocking for him.

"I'm a bigger tight end, I try to protect the quarterback and help out the offensive tackles in the run game. I'm stronger in the areas of blocking, being in the trenches with the offensive linemen, but I can still run my routes in the passing game."

Despite only entering his sophomore season at ASU, Knapp has experienced the ‘rollercoaster' of being a college athlete; having worked from being a lightly recruited high school player into the starting lineup only to miss substantial action due to injury. If he can enjoy better health, Knapp's finest days at ASU are undoubtedly ahead of him, which may surface as soon as the start of the 2009 season.

"Dealing with this injury kind of became a lifestyle," admits Knapp. "Nine months is a long time. At the beginning it was rough, but seeing my teammates out there working while I was just sitting on the sidelines, that killed me, but it made me want to work harder and harder.

" As you get closer to the season, you see the coaches get more and more excited, friends and family start talking about the upcoming season and you see the students come in and ask about football, I have no choice to get back to 100 percent and start playing again, which has always been a dream of mine."


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