Derrick Knight left Boston College in 2003 as the school's all-time leading rusher as his 3,725 yards ranked third in Big East history. Succeeding under Tom O'Brien and Jason Swepson, now the coaches at NC State, Derrick indicated to his younger cousin that the Wolfpack would be a good fit for him.
"He's always came to my games and stuff," Tony said of his cousin. "Derrick wanted me to go through with the commitment. He's familiar with that staff and speaks highly of the coaches."
While Derrick was a smaller back at 5-foot-9 and 205 pounds, Tony has prototypical size for a pro-style offense. He checked in at 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds at NC State's one-day camp, and posted a 4.48 40-yard dash. His measurables played a major role in landing an offer from the Wolfpack.
"Even before I went down to NC State the coaches said they liked my tape a lot," said Knight. ""I think they just wanted to see that I had improved on my speed and was capable of breaking long runs.
"I went down there and ran a 4.48 for them but I've ran even faster than that before. I've been timed at 4.41 on grass, so I knew I'd post good numbers at NC State."
Knight didn't wait long to commit after the Wolfpack extended the scholarship offer.
"They told my coach that they were offering me a scholarship so after he told me I gave them a call," said Knight. "I wanted to do it right away. I was able to talk with all the coaches and every one of them sounded happy that I was going there.
"I really like the coaches, and I know it's the type of offense that runs the ball. I felt like it was the place I wanted to be. I really liked the area, and it's in the ACC. Plus, with me being a big back they said I fill a need for them because I'm able to run between the tackles or outside, but I can also catch the ball and help out with pass protection."
Knight first caught NC State's attention after a big junior year at Groton (MA) Lawrence Academy. He transferred to the prep school after an all-conference season at Xaverian Brothers High School.
"I've always been a year younger than my class so I decided to go to Lawrence Academy and reclassify," said Knight. "That allowed me to get back in the grade I should be in.
"As a player, I've mostly ran north-south because I can run people over, but since I've been working on my speed I feel like I can run outside even more. It's really helped me a lot and I can't wait until this season to see how much I've improved."
In just eight games last season, Knight rushed for 1,456 yards and 12 touchdowns on 101 carries. He averaged an astounding 14.42 yards per carry during his junior season for Lawrence Academy. He helped lead the Spartans to an undefeated season.
"We had so many good players, it made it easy to perform," he said. "I was the running back and we have two D-I receivers... one of them is committed to Iowa. We also have a lineman recruited by BC, Tyler Cardoze, and another really good one who is a 300-pounder.
"We run an offense called the spin and we were running a lot outside of tackles, but my coach realized I can run inside too so we started to pound teams and run the ball more. We only had nine games, and I put up those numbers after missing one and I played a couple with mono."
The scary thing for Lawrence Academy's opponents is they have virtually their entire team returning.
"I think we're going to be unstoppable," said Knight. "We have everyone coming back and only lost maybe two starters so I'm hoping for a repeat season.
"The thing about our team is we all live around each other at school so it's like a big family."
NC State was the first school to extend Knight a scholarship offer, but recruiting coordinator Jerry Petercuskie had pursued him for a long period of time. Petercuskie spent a lot of time at Lawrence Academy in 2008 when he landed defensive lineman Darryl Cato-Bishop. A redshirt freshman, Cato-Bishop has turned heads with his play and is expected to compete for major playing time this fall.
"Coach Petercuskie is a good guy," said Knight. "He came to the school to recruit me, and I've always been emailing him for a long time. I think he's really good... the feeling I had from him all along was they wanted me to go there.
"It also helped having Daryl Bishop down there. He played at my high school and always tells us how much fun it is at NC State... how great a place it is. I saw him when I was at camp and it's crazy how much bigger he is. I used to watch him when he played basketball, and he was half the size he is now. I've been told he's doing well down there... they said he'll probably get a NFL contract so you know that is appealing too."
Knight believes that other schools will extend offers as the summer goes on, but he maintains that his commitment to NC State is firm.
"I'm definitely solid," he said. "NC State is the place I want to be. Other schools can talk to me, but I'm happy with NC State. I want to be a part of the Wolfpack and nothing is going to change that."