Miles from the radiant lights of Radio City Music Hall in New York, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton of the football team realized his dream.
He didn’t need the flashing cameras or the boisterous crowd, but instead, a small gathering of about 20 of his closest supporters.
Sunday, from his home in Windsor, Conn., Knighton got the call that made him the 72nd pick in the 2009 NFL draft. The Jacksonville Jaguars selected the 2008 First-Team All-Mid-American Conference award winner with the eighth pick in the third round.
“It was very nerve-racking,” Knighton said. “I knew I was a mid-round guy. I just didn’t know exactly where. Yesterday, a lot of [defensive] tackles went early, so I was hoping that I would move up. So, that’s what happened.”
Knighton was a bit surprised when he received the call from the Jaguars organization. The team didn’t scout him too hard but showed a few signs of interest earlier in the week. Some of Knighton’s scheduled guests were also shocked when they missed the life-altering moment.
“Everybody was just getting to my house, and we were there just sitting there,” Knighton said. “I didn’t think I was going to go that early. Then my phone rang, and everybody wasn’t even here yet.”
The phone calls continued to pour in throughout the day as word spread that the former No. 92 would be heading to Florida. Knighton said he got plenty of attention, including a share of calls and texts from people he’s “never even seen before.”
The 6-foot-4-inch, 291-pound force spoke to Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, as well as defensive line coach Ted Monachino. Knighton is due in Jacksonville, Fla., this Thursday for a brief rookie minicamp. Afterward, he plans to return to Temple for graduation in May.
In the coming weeks, Knighton will be studying for final examinations and brushing up on his new city. He said he knows little about Jacksonville, Fla.
During his four years on North Broad Street, Knighton recorded six sacks, four forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. He played in 46 games for the Owls and made 184 career tackles. Knighton was also named the Cherry and White’s top defensive player for the past two seasons. In February, he made significant impressions at the NFL combine.
In 2005 and 2006, Knighton and the Owls struggled to find the win column. A combined record of 1-22 acted as incentive for the next two years. In 2007 and 2008, he helped lead the team to a much-improved 9-15 mark. These experiences have defined Knighton’s career to this point.
“It helped me a lot going through the hard times,” Knighton said. “Things have turned around. Hopefully, my success will help the younger guys out.”
Knighton is the 58th career Temple football player to be drafted into the NFL. The last person to be selected was linebacker Rian Wallace, who was taken by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2005 draft.
The quarterback cruncher knows his work at Temple may be winding down, but another journey is just beginning. Knighton’s summer will be filled with adjusting his lifestyle and body to fit the NFL mold. He’ll also be studying up on his new playbook.
“I just got to continue to do what I was doing – work hard on football skills,” Knighton said. “Just stay humble and learning everything that I can.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.