May 25, 2011

Where are they now: Mike Knox

Few players were as feared around the Big Eight Conference during the early 1980s as former Nebraska linebacker Mike Knox. One of the few players at the time who lettered as a true freshman, Knox quickly built up a reputation as one of the hardest hitting players in the conference.

In this week's edition of our "Where are they now" series, we caught up with Knox and asked him to reflect on his playing days as well as his thoughts on the current state of the Huskers.

It's been almost 20 years since you last strapped on a Nebraska helmet. Looking back on your career here, is there anything that still sticks with you as one of your favorite memories from your days as a Husker?

"I always cherished playing Oklahoma. I looked forward to that game all the time, because I knew it was going to be a battle. I respected them and I think they respected Nebraska. It's not like some of the other so-called rivals out there like Colorado that have no respect either way going back and forth.

"As far as individually, I don't know if there's just one moment. I had a lot of big moments throughout my years there with the interceptions and the touchdowns, but I always tried to pride myself more on whoever I hit or tackled, they knew I hit them. I wanted to be known as the hardest hitter out there on that field at all times.

"The thing that you miss the most about it is not just the game itself, but your teammates and that locker room atmosphere. You try to explain that to somebody else, and they don't' quite understand it."

In 2004, you were selected into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame. What did it mean to you to receive that kind of recognition?

"It was an honor. I mean, that was something that you don't expect in life, but you wished that someday it would come. It was kind of validation for a lot of work that you've put in. It's an honor that's given to a person that you can't take lightly, if that makes sense. Outside of having kids and marrying my wife, that was probably the proudest moment that I've had.

"That's one reason why I do live back here in Nebraska. Here I am 48 years old, and not that they idolize the players, but the fans that you played in front of, they cherish and honor that game. That's what makes them great fans. You hope in the long run that by the way you play you're putting a quality product on the field for them. They paid a lot of money to go watch you play and buy all the memorabilia, so you always want to put a quality product out there for them.

"That's why it was so hard for me to watch when (Bill) Callahan was there, because I don't think they always had a quality product out there and the fans were getting cheated."

Where are they now?
Player: Mike Knox, 1981-85

Current city: Omaha, Neb.

Family:Wife: Susan; Children: Brandon (24), Taylor (20), Tanner (19), Dan (15), Libby (12).

Current profession: For the past 10 years, Knox has owned and operated Legend Pool and Spa, an Omaha-based company that specializes in the construction of customized underground spas and swimming pools. Legend Pool and Spa has five other employees, and features pool and spa designs that fit in any style of backyard. For more information about their services, go to

Professional career: After his exceptional collegiate career, Knox signed as an un-drafted free agent with the Denver Broncos, where he played one season in 1987. Knox saw action in just three games that year before deciding to hang up his cleats and retire from football.

NU career accomplishments: Knox was the only freshman to earn a varsity letter when he first came to Lincoln in 1981, and two years later he would go on to have one of the best seasons ever by a Husker linebacker. As a junior in 1983, he led the team in tackles with 125 (64 unassisted) and intercepted more passes (four) than any other Husker linebacker over the previous 13 seasons. He earned first-team All-Big Eight honors for his efforts. However, a knee injury the following spring sidelined Knox for the entire '84 season. He came back for his final year in '85 to finish second on the team in tackles (65). In 2004, Knox was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame.

A native of Boulder, Colo., Knox was an all-state and All-American linebacker at Castle Rock (Colo.) High School, where he also won two state championships in wrestling. In fact, he even qualified for the 1983 NCAA Wrestling Championships and placed third in the Big Eight Championships as a heavyweight.

Obviously you still keep pretty close tabs on the program. What's been your impression of Bo Pelini and what he's done at Nebraska that past three seasons?

"I love Bo. In my opinion, he's a players' coach. He will tell you exactly what he wants done, and as long as you follow that and do what he wants, you don't ever have a problem with him. You've got to play hard, and that's the way you're supposed to play. You're supposed to play hard and you're supposed to play physical and know your assignments. He says 'this is what I want, do it.'

"Now, is he the most appropriate one to stand in front of a bunch of media? No, but that's not what he's been hired for in my opinion. He'll tell you the way it is. Bo and his staff have done a great job, not just with the current team, but also with interacting with the former players. You know, bringing them back in and getting them more involved. Not only does that me a lot to you as an ex-player, but on the flip side we'll bend over backwards if Bo wants us to go do something. You did not have that with Callahan."

Looking back at you as a player coming out of high school, do you think you would play for a guy like Bo?

"I could play with Bo. Charlie McBride had a lot of that in him, where Charlie would be in your face, but as long as you did what you were asked and gave that effort, Charlie had your back all the way through. John Milton, my linebacker coach, did the same.

"That's all those coaches really want, is for you to know your responsibilities, give them the effort that you're supposed to, and when you play you play as hard, physical and fast as you can. It's a simple game if you break it down to those three options."

As a former linebacker, can you talk about Lavonte David and what he brings to the position?

"He is very good. He's been blessed with speed, and he seems to have a very god mind on him, where he can anticipate and read to get to the spot where he needs to be. You can take somebody with all the God-given talent who's faster than anyone, but if they don't know where they're going it doesn't mean anything.

"He on the other hand knows where he needs to be at all times. He's got a very positive upside to his future if he just keeps progressing the way that he needs to progress. He cannot live on what he did last year. He's got to keep building on top of that. Looking at his personality, I think he wants to do more than that. He's not going to be satisfied with past accomplishments."

Being a Colorado native and having talked about how much you enjoyed the Nebraska-Oklahoma rivalry, is it hard for you to process that Nebraska won't be playing either of those teams on a regular basis?

"It's not hard to process. I think the move to the Big Ten is very good for Nebraska, academically and athletically. Not just in football, but all sports. I think we're getting into a league that suits us better overall. There will be times down the road where we will face Oklahoma again, either during the regular season or a bowl game.

"Oklahoma is going to be in the top-10, and if we get back in the top-10 the chances are they're going to match us up, because television knows that game would bring in a lot of viewers. Granted, we give up Oklahoma, but we're gaining Ohio State coming into town this year. If you lose one, you're going to build tradition with the others. I think Nebraska-Iowa will be very good for both teams."

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