Knight brings championship experience to NMU football

Ray Bressette

In the annals of NMU football history, names that often arise in conversation are figures such as Tom Izzo, Steve Mariucci, Rick Popp and Bernie Anderson. But one man’s name that has quietly gone unnoticed yet has accomplished just as much success as the others is Wildcats’ wide receivers coach, Marcus Knight.

NMU head coach Chris Ostrowsky said Knight is a valuable contributor to his team’s

“His accomplishments have made him a great teacher for our players, and he always brings a tremendous amount of energy because of that,” Ostrowsky said. “We all know he’s very accomplished, but he’s as humble as a guy could be. Everyone knows we’re a better program for having him here.”

Knight has played championship football on every level of the game from college to the NFL and hopes to bring his experience to NMU.

The story begins for Knight in a town called Sylacauga in Ala. where Knight had dreams of playing football for the University of Alabama.

“I watched my oldest brother graduate from Alabama and win a national championship, so my heart was set on playing there,” Knight said. “Things didn’t work out as well as I hoped, and I was able to visit Michigan and I felt something special there, so I knew that’s where I had to go.”

Knight joined the University of Michigan team in 1996, and over the next four years he played with quarterbacks such as Brian Griese, Drew Henson, Jason Kapsner and NFL legend Tom Brady.

In Knight’s second year with the Wolverines, he helped lead the team to a 12-0 season en route to their national championship, defeating Washington State 21-16 in the Rose Bowl.

In 1999, Knight’s senior year, he had his highest offensive production, earning 766 yards with six touchdowns.

After college, Knight was picked up by the Oakland Raiders of the NFL as an undrafted free agent and was signed to the team’s practice squad for the 2001 season.

That following offseason, Knight joined the Amsterdam Admirals of the NFL Europe League to improve his skills. Knight was the league’s second leading receiver with 546 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 13.65 yards per game.

“The league gave me the opportunity to meet a great diversity of people,” Knight said. “I was able to meet people from Germany, Japan and Scotland. It was great that football was able to show me such diversity, which was my greatest accomplishment throughout my career.”

After his performance overseas, Knight landed a spot on the Oakland Raiders’ roster that fall.

“The NFL Europe League gave me the platform to go back to the Raiders that year and make the team the second time around,” Knight said.

The Raiders played Knight as a wide receiver and a punt returner in all 16 games during the 2002 season.

Oakland earned an 11-5 record that year, and Knight found himself as the Raiders’ starting punt returner in Super Bowl XXXVII against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“It was awesome to be at the highest pinnacle of football and be on that stage,” Knight said. “It was just surreal. I was playing alongside Tim Brown and Jerry Rice (hall of fame wide receivers), and that helps you realize how much of an awesome experience it is. I wish the outcome would have been a little different, but to be there and say I was able to do that was a blessing.”

Knight returned eight punts for 143 yards in the championship game, but the Raiders would go on to lose the Super Bowl 48-21, which would be Knight’s final game in the NFL.

Knight returned overseas to play with Amsterdam for another season, before signing with The Buccaneers for a brief stint in 2004.

The next step in Knight’s playing career would be as a member of the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League under owner Bon Jovi.

In the league based on benefiting offensive players with a 50-yard field, Knight racked up 886 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season with Philadelphia in 2005.

Knight said he enjoyed his time in Philadelphia, playing for Soul owner Bon Jovi.

“Philadelphia does a great job in that league, and Bon Jovi was a great guy to play for,” Knight said. “He really took the time to get to know each and every one of his players, and you could tell he actually cared about them and the team winning.”

Midway through the 2006 season, Knight was traded to the Columbus Destroyers where he would find himself in a championship game once again in Arena Bowl XXI.

Knight was sidelined due to injury in the game, and was forced to be a spectator as his team fell to the San Jose Sabercats 55-33. The game would mark the end of Knight’s playing career.

Knight said his largest challenge in his playing career was getting over the hump on the biggest stages.

“I’ve played the championship game at every level of this game, and I can’t say my record in those games is great,” Knight said. “To be there is one accomplishment, but to win them all would have been a whole different level. I would have to point to that as the biggest struggle of my career.”

One year removed from his playing days, Knight began his coaching career at Valparasio University, where he served from 2008-2011.

In 2012, when Chris Ostrowsky was promoted to NMU’s head football coach, Ostrowsky offered Knight his first coaching position at a scholarship-based football program, and as Knight said, “the rest is history.”

NMU senior wide receiver Austin Young said Knight’s knowledge of the game has been passed down to his teammates.

“He’s proud of his accomplishments, but you’ll never hear him brag about them,” Young said. “We’re blessed to have a guy like him here who knows so much about the game.

“When I came here, I didn’t know anything about playing as a wide receiver. [Knight] has taught me everything I know about this position, and I think all our receivers would say they wouldn’t be the player they are today without him.”

Since Knight joined the Wildcats in 2012, his wide receiver’s production has jumped from averaging 204.3 yards per game in 2011 to averaging 261.5 yards per game.

Knight said his focus at NMU is to help make his players champions on and off the field.

“I want to positively affect as many men as I can, and help them realize the value of football but also that there is life after football,” Knight said. “My goal here is to help this program win as much as possible, but all in all help our players to grow up to be great, positive and powerful presences in their future.

“I appreciate the tradition that’s here at NMU. People are looking for the feeling they had during the 1975 national championship, and you can feel that every time you go around Marquette. I’d really love to be a part of bringing that back to a community like this.”