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Finally healthy, Knevel aiming to make most of final season

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Injuries have plagued David Knevel the past two seasons, but he's healthy again and determined for a big senior year.
Injuries have plagued David Knevel the past two seasons, but he's healthy again and determined for a big senior year. (Associated Press)

When David Knevel looks back on the season that was in 2016, the theme above all else is that it was a year when his body was his biggest nemesis.

In the months leading up to his junior campaign, Knevel has worked himself into the best shape of his life as was locked in as Nebraska’s starting right tackle. The 6-foot-9, 315-pound native of Brantford, Ontario, was finally on track to play up to his lofty potential.

But just three games into the season, Knevel suffered a left ankle injury that plagued him the rest of the season.

“It was very frustrating,” Knevel said. “The thing with soft tissue (injuries) is you can go out and do things, but the pain lingers and it’s always in the back of your head. It was just very frustrating. It was an everyday thing. It was hard.”

Along with severely impacting his performance when he did play, there were discouraging moments like NU’s win at Indiana where Knevel suffered a setback on the very first snap of the game and was sidelined for the rest of the day.

It wasn’t until the Huskers’ regular-season finale against Iowa that Knevel said he finally felt close to 100 percent again, but because he was unable to do much of any weight lifting due to his ankle, much of the strength he had gained in the offseason was essentially lost.

When the book closed on 2016, Knevel immediately looked ahead to this season as one last opportunity to have the kind of season he’d been working for the previous four years.

While regaining strength was again an emphasis, Knevel said he changed up his training a bit this offseason by focusing more on “functional strength” to build up the sturdiness of his joints and tendons.

By doing so, Knevel is hoping to be durable enough to make it through an entire season without missing time to injury - something he hasn’t done since his redshirt freshman season in 2014.

“I think I learned a lot from (last year’s injury), especially about mental toughness,” Knevel said. “I was in a pretty low spot, so I learned how to cope with that… With an injury like that, you kind of lose confidence and you get insecure about your ability.

Head coach Mike Riley said he’s definitely seen a change in Knevel since the end of last season, adding that if the senior could manage to stay healthy, his potential was about as high as any Husker offensive linemen.

“David Knevel has a ton of upside,” Riley said. “He has played some good football. The thing that hurt him a year ago was inconsistency of being able to play, so if we can maintain his health and he keeps playing - he’s a had a good camp, and man, he has a lot of stuff for that big of a man and that athletic ability.

“Now he needs to challenge himself to reach that level of what he’s really capable of, because I think it’s really high. I think his upside is really high.”

Knevel seems to have taken that challenge head on leading up to his final season as a Husker.

“Without a doubt,” Knevel said. “I don’t have another chance. I’m just going to try to do my best in everything. That’s going to be my mindset all year, just give it everything I’ve got, because this is my last go-around.”