Kelvin McKnight had a chance to sit back and take it all in last week.
The CFL newcomer was on the one-game injured list when the Winnipeg Blue Bombers opened the season with a 19-6 victory over the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“Man, it’s just something to experience. My first time seeing it was really, indescribable, but the love the fans have for us is something to see,” the 24-year-old wide receiver from Bradenton, Fla., told reporters after Thursday’s walkthrough.
“It’s a great feeling when you have that many fans cheering for you as a whole. It was just very exciting to see. I don’t really have a word for it, it’s indescribable, but there was a lot of love out there for us.”
Friday night, McKnight will have an opportunity to give the diehards at IG Field something to cheer about as he’ll be a starting slotback against the Toronto Argonauts. With kick returner Janarion Grant placed on the six-game injured list, last week’s starter at slotback, Charles Nelson, has been shifted over to return duties, opening the door for McKnight to make his debut and catch some passes.
“I know it’s going to be a lot of emotions, but at the end of day, it’s football,” McKnight said.
“I’ve been doing it since the age of six. I’ll probably be more excited than nervous. But, I’m ready to get out there, for sure.”
McKnight starred for the Samford Bulldogs, a university in Alabama, where he lit it up as a senior for 100 catches, 1,453 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. He went undrafted, but the Denver Broncos signed him and stashed McKnight on their practice squad for 2019. The 5-9, 189-pounder was cut loose prior to the 2020 NFL season and spent some time in the Spring League before the Bombers came calling.”I spent a lot of long hours in the offseason grinding,” he said.
“I remember there was a time when I wasn’t even on a roster, you know, just praying every day that I could even get an opportunity… For me to be here and see my work come to life, like, I can’t really explain it… I have no words for it but I’ve been grinding for a long time to be in this situation.”
There were 21 wide receivers in training camp and McKnight grabbed attention from the beginning with his route running and quickness. However, that’s not how he won over head coach Mike O’Shea.
“Very quickly learned multiple positions, basically was available for every single rep in training camp. Caught the ball well; he’s stout. Given his stature, he’s a stout receiver. All those things are very likeable,” O’Shea said.
“I said this in possibly another interview, I asked him, since he got so many reps in training camp, I know his rep count was down a little bit, does he still know and before I could finish he says, ‘Coach, I know everything.’ So, you gotta like that, right? He wasn’t being brash. He just was letting me know that one of the reasons why the guys liked him so much is because you could count on him to go to whatever spot you put them in and he was going to get right.” McKnight also has a fan in his quarterback — Zach Collaros. The two connected on several deep passes throughout camp.
“I’ve been really impressed with (McKnight) since the moment I met him at training camp. He’s really a cool, measured guy,” Collaros said.
“He always knew his assignment, no matter what position we were putting him at. As a quarterback, that’s really all you can ask for, is for the guys to know what they’re doing. I thought he’s done an amazing job at that the entire camp.”
As for what you can expect from McKnight Friday night, well, he was humble with his answer, saying he’ll do whatever the team needs him to do to help them win. But Collaros wasn’t shy to give a preview of what McKnight brings to the table.”I think you’ll see his athleticism, you’ll see what he can do with the ball in his hands. He’s a great receiver. He’s just a great football player,” he said.
“He has a high football IQ as I’ve mentioned, not just from a standpoint of being able to learn the offence but he seems to really understand the situations. Anytime we’re going through them, you don’t have to tell him twice.”It’s been great working with him. I’m really excited for him to get this opportunity.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
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