Father's idea helped Knotts earn his college football keep

Texas Tech deep snapper Jackson Knotts was the Red Raiders' only true freshman to play in all 13 games last season, and he subsequently was placed on scholarship.
Texas Tech deep snapper Jackson Knotts was the Red Raiders' only true freshman to play in all 13 games last season, and he subsequently was placed on scholarship.

As the son of a former Florida Gators safety, Jackson Knotts grew up going to Florida games at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, being wowed by his favorite Gator, exciting multi-purpose player Percy Harvin.

As he approached high-school age, Knotts saw himself as a quarterback, but then his father set him on a different path — one that earned him every-game playing time last year as a true freshman in the Big 12 and, at the end of the season, a scholarship.

Knotts is part of that club of football long snappers, a position that, more than any other, goes unnoticed as long as that player doesn't mess up. Reliably deliver the football to the punter or to the kicker's holder, and one can put a coach's mind at ease.

A coach such as Kenny Perry, who oversees Tech's special teams. Perry, in his first year on Joey McGuire's charter staff, inherited Knotts.

"He's the best I've been around," Perry said. "I wish he'd put some weight on. We're trying to get him eating a lot more. But he's awesome. He puts the ball right where he needs to put it."

Knotts had something a little more glamorous in mind.

"I'm going into my freshman year of high school," Knotts said. "My dad (Andy Knotts) was like, 'You need to try long snapping.' I thought, 'That's lame. I want to play quarterback.' I was a quarterback going into my freshman year of high school.

"And then he's like, 'You need to try it.' We got a guy who was a snapper at the University of South Florida. He trained me a little bit, taught me the technique and then when I started to improve, I started really liking it and picking it up. The first game of the season, I think our varsity long snapper snapped it over the punter's head and I got a call-up from our head coach."

The rest is history. Knotts' quarterback days were over. He did earn a job as a safety his senior year at Plant City (Fla.) High School, but he was the long snapper for his team all four years. He developed the skill to the point that Tech, Kansas, Marshall and Troy all recruited him, and he visited all four campuses.

"Texas Tech, as soon as I landed in Lubbock, I knew it was home," he said. "Coming here, meeting the staff. ... I actually met (punter) Austin (McNamara) the first night I was here, and he just made it feel like home and like I needed to be here."

Knotts earned the job last August and was the Red Raiders' only true freshman to play in all 13 games last year. He even made a tackle in the season opener at Houston, dashing downfield to stop Marcus Jones at the Cougars' 13-yard line, holding the all-American return man to a 4-yard runback.

He made his dad's vision pay off.

"For sure," Knotts said. "He believed in me in anything I did, but he was like, 'Long snapping's the way to go.' Because he was looking at the snapper from USF. He went full scholarship, just to snap, and that was like, 'This is something you can do.' I didn't want to do it, like I said, at first, and then I did it. So I'm really happy I did."

Knotts isn't the biggest guy — he's 5-foot-11, 185 pounds and wanting to be 200 by spring — but his overall athletic ability doesn't hurt. He plays golf and surfs, though he says he's not great at either. Back at Plant City, he set a since-broken state high-school record in the javelin with a throw of 187 feet, 9 inches and finished third in the Class 4A state meet.

"I know a lot of long snappers are not good athletes, and I know some are really good athletes," Knotts said. "I think it helps tremendously, because a lot of snappers snap and block. With coach Perry's scheme, I snap and run down the field, so it does really help to be able to get off a blocker and go make a play downfield. That's what we're trying to do. That's the goal."

Raider Walk planned

Tech announced Saturday that fans can greet the Red Raiders up close on game days by lining a Raider Walk route.

The team buses will unload south of the Sports Performance Center about two hours and 15 minutes before kickoff of each home game. The team will walk north up Drive of Champions Avenue to the home tunnel at Jones AT&T Stadium. Fans are invited to line the street.

This article originally appeared on Lubbock Avalanche-Journal: Father's idea helped Jackson Knotts earn his college football keep