MISSOULA — Marcus Knight always believed he could play football at a high level, he just needed an opportunity to prove it.
Now he's been starring at running back for the Montana Grizzlies this season.
Knight joined the Griz in the spring after one season at the junior college level and has hit the ground running as the team’s premier back. In eight games, Knight has 13 total touchdowns, including 12 on the ground, and has rushed for 639 yards and added another 197 yards receiving.
“(The first few games) have been a lot of fun. Definitely Division-I dream worthy,” Knight said. “It’s been a lot of fun and just been adjusting to the speed, which is pretty much the same as junior college, but the intensity level is up. It’s been a little bit of an adjustment as far as learning the offense and what to do and all that, but it’s been going pretty well.”
Knight grew up in Tacoma, Wash., but moved to California his junior year of high school. After graduation, instead of committing anywhere right away, he wanted to see what offers he could find out there. So he enrolled at Citrus College, a junior college in Glendora, Calif., where he played for one season. He knew that route would take him to an FCS or FBS school, which was ultimately his goal.
At Citrus, Knight was an all-state running back for California Junior Colleges. In 11 games, he racked up 912 yards and eight touchdowns.
Then the Griz came calling.
“I think I’ve just always known I could play at this level,” he said. “It wasn’t necessarily coming to me out of high school, but after people that I knew went to junior college and it worked out for them I just knew I could prove myself at that level.
“I think it’s just always playing football and wanting to be here. I’m not going to tell myself I want to be somewhere and then say, ‘Eh, I don’t know if I can do that.’ So just trusting (myself) and I’ve had a lot of support in my life, believing in me, and just believing in myself. I guess I’ve just always known that this is fun and what I want to do.”
Patience was the biggest trait Knight learned while in junior college. It was all about trusting his decision and believing in himself.
Now it’s paying off.
Knight arrived in time for spring drills with the Grizzlies. He officially became a starter in Montana’s second game against North Alabama.
“I came in spring and it was freezing cold just like it is now,” Knight said with a laugh. “I’d never been to Montana and never knew much about the state but I liked the town and everything right away. It was cool.”
He said at first gelling with his new teammates took adjusting to. But once fall camp hit, everything felt natural, and it shows. Three times this season Knight has scored a hat-trick of touchdowns.
“Just the offensive line is really pushing people off and I’ve been able to see holes very clearly, especially the last couple of games,” Knight said. “I think just coming out and running and trusting where the hole will be and they’ve been there lately so I’ve just been benefiting from knowing where to go.”
Now, Knight and the No. 8 Grizzlies set their focus on Portland State, a team that beat the Griz a year ago. Kickoff is 3 p.m. Mountain on Saturday in Hillsboro, Oregon.
“I think we’re definitely confident but we’re not complacent,” Knight said. “We know what we need to do. We lost to them last year so I think there’s a lot of wanting to get back and they’re a good team so I think we’re very focused going into this game.”