MISSOULA — Montana sophomore running back Marcus Knight has been music to fans' ears in his first season with the Griz.
The junior college transfer is averaging 74.5 rushing yards per game, the sixth most in the Big Sky Conference, and has caught 14 passes for 104 yards and one score. His eight rushing touchdowns are the most in the league and tied for the 11th most in the FCS.
Knight, standing at 6-foot-1 and 194 pounds, wants to be seen as an all-around back who can contribute in any fashion. So far, the music lover who can play four instruments has found the success by combining his speed, elusiveness, good vision and hard running ability.
Knight, who's started in five of six games, sat down with 406mtsports.com to talk about his breakout season:
Q: How would you describe yourself as a running back?
A: Just a guy that can do whatever he’s asked. He can run inside. He can run outside. Can catch the ball. Just do whatever they need him to do. That’s what I want to be known as at least. Just all-around.
Q: Now six games into your time at Montana, what have been your main takeaways from the level of competition in Division I?
A: It’s a lot of fun. The atmosphere is awesome. Once you get going, it’s not really that much different than any level. Once you get more comfortable, it’s a lot of fun.
Q: How different is the speed of the game at this level compared to junior college?
A: It’s a little bit faster. But I feel like there’s more energy, so you don’t really notice it as much because at JUCO there might not be as much energy, but here the energy rises and you rise with it, so it kind of evens itself out.
Q: The physical aspect you bring — running through guys, like the horse collar against North Alabama — isn’t something we saw much in spring and fall camp. Where does that physical piece come from, or what do you attribute it to?
A: I think it’s just never wanting to go down easy. Just trying to get as many yards as you possibly can. When you’re younger, you do those types of moves and then you never really get a chance to do them again until you’re put in the right circumstance or the right time, and then they just come back. I guess I’ve technically been doing that stuff the whole time I’m playing football. It’s just I really don’t get to show it until the games.
Q: You talked before the year about finding and running through the correct lanes. How has it gone for you trying to learn that aspect?
A: It’s going pretty good. Just trusting where to go and then being able to improvise off of it. It’s going a lot better with our line doing a great job and making holes for me to get through. I’m just understanding where to go, how to trust it more and where to hit it, be more patient. It’s definitely getting better. Each game it gets a little better.
Q: The O-line was one of the big questions coming into the year. Now that you’ve gotten to run behind them, what’s stood out to you about their play?
A: They’re great. They’re super physical pretty much every play. They’ve got a lot of attitude. They’re getting going for sure. They’re going to keep getting better for sure.
Q: You also mentioned trying to become a better pass blocker. How do you feel you’ve picked that up so far?
A: I think I’ve picked up the most in our offense knowing who to block. You got to know certain schemes and the defense based off of what plays we’re running. I think as I get more understanding just being able to translate the classroom to the game.
Q: Some fun ones to close out. How has Montana compared to California?
A: Colder. Smaller. Quiet. It’s cool. The nature is nice. Different culture. I like it. I miss California for sure, but I definitely like the tranquility of Montana.
Q: Outside of football, what have you enjoyed the most about your time in the state?
A: I floated the river a few times. I could do that in California, but it’s a pretty cool scene here floating the river. Dealing with the snow, because I was here in January, so it was insane. But that can be fun, so maybe I’ll go do something in the snow or go sledding.
Q: Anything outside of football you're passionate about?
A: I play a lot of music. I play a couple instruments. I like other sports, like soccer and lacrosse. I just like to chill out. I feel like I have a lot of interests. I feel like I’m going to have a lot of interests when football’s over because I like a lot of things.
Q: What instruments do you play?
A: I play the guitar, bass, drums and piano. I’ve gotten a little acoustic out here.
Q: How did you get started?
A: I started playing the drums pretty young. My whole family is big into music. My brother played the guitar first, and we wanted to have a band, so I picked up the drums. The guitar, I just think that’s cool, so I wanted to play that, so picked that up a couple years ago. We just always had a bass laying around the house, I just picked that up. Piano, my mom’s a piano player, so it’s just in the family.
Q: Did you teach yourself any of those instruments?
A: Every one of them. It’s worth doing. It’s a lot of fun.
Q: Have you played with any of the guys on the team?
A: No, not yet. I did go to a few stores, and I guess some people casually play the guitar, so I went to a guitar shop with a couple guys. We’ll see. We’re trying to make a band happen.
Q: Who’s all talking about a band?
A: We got Garrett Graves. I don’t know how good he is yet. I haven’t seen him play. I know Mitch (Roberts) plays the guitar. Maybe I’ll try to hit up Mitch. Cam Humphrey can probably sing. We’ll get one going.
Q: What’s your favorite type of music?
A: I think everything. Whatever sounds good. I grew up on R&B. My dad’s a big rock guy. My mom’s big into R&B. I like classical.
Q: Winding down here, why jersey No. 21?
A: It was kind of like the only one available. It’s a cool number. LaDainian Tomlinson wore it, and he’s one of my favorite running backs.
Q: How long have you been growing out the Afro?
A: When I was younger, I used to have really long hair, like Troy Polamalu type of hair. I cut that off before high school. Then it was short for a while. It just kept growing and growing. I don’t like getting haircuts. I didn’t get the big Afro until probably junior college. I think of it kind of like a statement, but it’s kind of funny, too. I haven’t found a good place to cut my hair yet, so just letting to go for the football season.
Q: Lastly, what’s it like playing for Bobby Hauck?
A: It’s fun. He’s a strict dude. Game days are super intense. It’s like real football. It’s gritty football. It’s been an experience for sure. I think it’s been a lot of fun. It’s what you think football is going to be like as far as grittiness and the character that coaches create for themselves and you.