Damon Knox, a 6'5" 255 pound defensive end from Michigan football powerhouse Muskegon, got his first offer from Illinois in the early spring and has had the Illini in the running from the start. Somewhat of a tweener between tackle and end, Knox feels he has the versatility to play either position on the next level.
"Defensive End. There are a lot of quick guys. I may not be as quick as some guys. Maybe I'll put on more weight and be a defensive tackle too."
Muskegon underwent a slight coaching change in the offseason, bringing in a new defensive coordinator. With the change came new schemes and a change in Knox's role.
"I think a lot of things about our new defense are different. I'm still making a lot of plays but not the same kind. Hopefully we'll blitz a little more soon. I have 6-7 sacks right now. Hopefully I'll get more."
Knox has visited his current leader Michigan State a couple of different times, and so far has felt at home with the MSU program.
"It's been great so far. I didn't have great grades my freshman and sophomore year, but Coach (Mark) Dantonio told me I have time to get things right."
Knox took the opportunity to visit Michigan State for their game against Notre Dame, which ended in exciting fashion with the Spartans faking a field goal in overtime and scoring the winning touchdown.
"It was exciting. Every time I go back it gives me a reason to want to come back."
Two other major programs have offered Knox. One of which is Michigan.
"I think I'll visit Michigan too for their next home game. I didn'tknow they had one this week or else I would have gone. I want to make sure things are still going on there."
The Wolverines were formerly his number two team, but recently he has fallen out of contact with them somewhat and claims they have dropped a bit on his list.
"I had Michigan at #2 but I haven't heard much from them lately."
So who's taken over the #2 spot for Knox?
"Illinois was my first offer. I like the coaching staff at Illinois. I like Coach (Ron) Zook. The academics are good, and I want to get a good education. I like how he's big on academics. I'm going to try to get there for a visit."
In addition to his relationship with Coach Zook, Knox corresponds frequently with Detroit native and Illinois defensive line coach Keith Gilmore.
"Coach Gilmore is a really cool guy. When we do talk we have a nice conversation about football and about anything. I try to keep in touch with him, and I'll be calling him again soon. We talk pretty often. He's pushing me hard on my grades and he tells me he's happy about any progress I make."
In case grades don't quite work out for Knox, he does have a backup plan in the form of another in-state school.
"Eastern Michigan, their coaches told me that they could help me out if I don't qualify and eventually be a part of their program."
As for now, Knox is putting in extra work to achieve qualifying marks to progress to the next level as smoothly as possible. His qualification is also a big factor in his decision timeline.
"I'll make my decision as soon as I qualify. A big factor is my ACT. It's wherever I can get the help and education. I'm not the best at math, but I'll work hard."
Many players seek to get on the field as quickly as possible, but Knox has an interesting view on his tenure at the next level and his game readiness.
"I want to redshirt my freshman year. I want to get caught up and be just as strong as the other guys and learn all the plays. I also want to have a good coaching staff."
Coaches will be keeping an eye on Knox both on the field and in the classroom this fall as this talented defender works toward his goal of playing for a Division One program.