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Eric Peterson, Published September 06 2012

Cobbers tackle Knowlton has thrived after nearly walking away from game

Moorhead - During his sophomore year of football at Fargo South, Tom Knowlton remembers doing a drill in which he faced around 600 pounds of humanity.

He was the defensive lineman whose job it was to take on two offensive linemen. In this instance, offensive players were both 300-plus pound seniors, including Austin Richard, who went on to have a standout career at North Dakota State.

“It was basically trying not to get blown back 15 yards, which I did,” said Knowlton, who was 6-foot, 230 pounds at the time. “So I failed the drill. … We had a lot of big guys on the offensive line. They were huge and that was kind of intimidating because we had to play scout (defense) for them.”

Knowlton is in the role of intimidator these days. He’s a starting senior left tackle for Concordia. He’s a three-year starter who has earned preseason Division III All-America honors this fall. He’s an imposing 6-foot-5, 310 pounds and helps anchor a veteran offensive line.

The Cobbers (1-0) host Buena Vista (0-1) at 1 p.m. Saturday in their home opener at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

“He’s a power-type blocker,” Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said of Knowlton. “He has the sweetness with his feet to get to the next level to dominate the second tier.”

Not bad for a player who was ready to stop playing football in high school.

Knowlton initially didn’t go out for varsity when he was at South. He had lost his passion for the game after his freshman football season.

That’s when current Moorhead High head coach Kevin Feeney, who was then the head coach at South, intervened. Feeney had Knowlton in one of his classes. Feeney encouraged Knowlton to come out.

Knowlton eventually did join the varsity four games into his sophomore season.

“It was nerve-wracking the first time, but Feeney was very nice to me,” Knowlton said of that first year.

Knowlton is thankful that he decided to continue his career.

“I always think about it, mostly the fact of how I would have regretted it,” said Knowlton, an English Literature major whose favorite book is “1984” by George Orwell.

“It’s a huge, huge part of my life right now.”

Knowlton didn’t see much playing time in his sophomore and junior seasons at South. He didn’t start to blossom until his final prep season. He grew to be 6-3, 255 pounds and started at left tackle.

“Finally, my senior year, something just clicked in my head,” said Knowlton, who listens to the song “New Noise” by Refused prior to every game.

Coincidentally, Brett Baune – now a starting senior fullback for the Cobbers – was the starting center for the Bruins when Knowlton was a senior.

Knowlton now clears the way for Baune, who rushed for 71 yards and a TD in Concordia’s 42-26 season-opening win at Jamestown College last Saturday.

Horan – who is in his 12th season as Concordia head coach – said Knowlton has the potential to be among the top offensive tackles he’s coached.

“He’s got great size and he’s got great athleticism for a big guy,” Horan said. “When he decides to do something, there are not many people that would get in his way.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com