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November 27, 2015
University of Massachusetts Amherst’s linebacker Jovan Santos-Knox took the field in his uniform for the last time on Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. Santos-Knox said that he is more excited than nervous; eager to end his college career by playing football to the best of his ability.
“My coach actually has a little saying called TRO: Time’s Running Out. So, he says it all the time, ‘hey you only have a couple more games here.’ It’s actually sinking in now,” Santos-Knox said.
The senior from Middletown, Conn. has played a key role on the team for all four years. In his 2015 season alone, Santos-Knox averaged 11.1 tackles per game, tying him for seventh place in all of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).
Throughout his collegiate career, Santos-Knox has seen it all. For starters, he was part of the first class of players to make the jump from Division I-AA to Division I. When he started out at UMass in 2012, Charley Molnar was the coach. Now, he ends it under the helm of Head Coach Mark Whipple.
Though the program has made strides in the right direction these past four years, it is clear that things have not been easy this season.
“Times got tough. Times are getting tough. We stick through it and we always got each other’s back,” Santos-Knox said. The Minutemen suffered a 20-13 loss on Senior Day against Miami of Ohio last Saturday, setting a 2-9 record.
Jovan’s parents, Byron and Julia Knox, have been by their son’s side since the beginning, and are also eager to see him take the field on Friday.
“It’s actually been pretty exciting,” Byron Knox said. “You know, to see that he was recruited by UMass, before the present coaching staff, and stayed with his commitment to the program [and] being close enough to home where he can enjoy the weekends and holidays with family. It’s been a great experience for us.”
“We’re lucky to be close by and not miss many games. We like to travel, too and watch the team,” Julia Knox said.
Santos-Knox attributed a lot of his development to his UMass position coach, Charles Walker, for helping him become the best possible player he could be.
“Before him, I kind of was like, I couldn’t find my place in the game really,” Santos-Knox said. “I don’t know, I started to lose the love for the game and Coach Walker brought the fire back in to me and taught me how to play the position at a high level.”
And in the Minutemen’s game against Toledo back on Oct. 24, Santos-Knox finished with a high of 20 tackles. The last player in program history to record at least 20 tackles in a single game was in fact, Coach Walker, with 23 tackles back in 2004.
Santos-Knox will miss playing at UMass, but wants to give playing in the National Football League a shot.
“I want to try and take it as far as I can. I’m going to work hard and see how far I can go with this thing. God has blessed me with a good long career so far, so, you know, whatever he has in store for me I’m ready for,” he said.
The NFL Pro Day will take place in the spring, and until then, Santos-Knox says he will focus on training to impress scouts.
“We do what we can in order to help him live his dream,” Byron Knox said. “It’s short-lived so if he wants to do it, we’re definitely going to support him in any way we can.”
Even if Santos-Knox is not able to play professionally, he is certain that he wants to keep football in his life. He hopes to use his sociology degree to coach and teach kids the game he loves.
As he prepares for his future after UMass, Santos-Knox leaves words of advice behind for his younger teammates: “Just work hard and take this thing seriously. This is a hard thing, playing Division I football. It’s not easy. Not everyone can do it. It takes a lot of preparation. You got to be in the film room, you got to study, you got to really take this thing seriously,” he said.