Before he’d even squared to the TV cameras and introduced himself to Nebraska football media, the incomparable Pot Roast smiled and strutted.
“The show has arrived,” Terrance Knighton chuckled on his way to the podium. Nebraska’s new defensive line coach then thanked those gathered for welcoming him to Nebraska. He called this job a “dream come true” and shared his excitement for the work ahead.
His first time in Nebraska came just under a year ago when he brought his wife to a Genuwine, Dru Hill, Sisqo and Jagged Edge show at Baxter Arena in Omaha last February. It was a Valentine’s Day concert for the two of them. He put it in the universe when he told his wife after the concert they could say they’d finally been to Nebraska.
The 8-year NFL veteran’s first several weeks on the job mainly involved recruiting but he’s excited to work with the players once practices begin. Knighton didn’t plan to become a coach but he wanted to stay within football. He coached the defensive line for two seasons at Wagner before joining Rhule’s staff at Carolina and then coming to Nebraska.
He shared his admiration and respect for Big Ten football and Nebraska’s place within it. This is a big job. Knighton admired Nebraska growing up and knew all the National Championships and standout players. He’ll turn 37 in July so he spent his formative years watching the Huskers as one of college football greatest dynasties. He tells recruits and young football fans that when he can.
“When I was growing up, Nebraska was the Alabama, Georgia,” Knighton said. “And that’s what we’re trying to get it back to. That’s where it deserves to be. It’s one of the schools that when you get that offer your eyes should light up.”
He said head coach Matt Rhule has a plan for how things will operate on a day-by-day basis. Knighton also said, referring to the rest of the staff, “we have the right guys there and we’re ready to attack it.” Knighton played defensive line at Temple when Rhule coached that position. Their friendship followed into a second decade. Knighton said Rhule instills accountability among players and staff. The level of urgency his staff operates with changed players on a human level. Urgency and accountability in the classroom and on the field, led to success in life. That’s carried over into this coaching staff. Knighton said there’s competition between staff members because one coach doesn’t want to be outworked by any of the others, Knighton said. Rhule sets the tone for that.
In terms of the defense, Knighton will handle the interior and edge defensive linemen but isn’t sure if he’ll handle more. Since defensive coordinator Tony White’s scheme is slightly different, they’re still solving assignments. That’s going to work in Nebraska’s favor, Knighton said.
“Good luck,” he said about scheming for what he knows of White’s plans. “You’re going to lose some sleep trying to figure out where we’re lined up. … You’ve got to have dynamic eyes for a scheme like that.”
Knighton couldn’t get too far into scheme because the staff has largely focused on recruiting in his first six weeks. While this is his largest recruiting job to date, Knighton said his NFL experience makes it “an easy conversation” when speaking with recruits. Football gave him a career and a livelihood. Some recruits he speaks with come from similar backgrounds and can relate to him through that.
He wants to see defensive linemen who burst off the ball and show flexibility. The rest, he said, can be coached. Getting recruits with the right attitudes stands out as he speaks with potential Huskers. Knighton has the experience of working with personalities in the NFL. So if a player is willing to be coachable and work the football takes care of itself.
Knighton also shared the story how he got the nickname Pot Roast. It’s rooted in a post-game flight back to Jacksonville after the Seahawks crushed them in his rookie season. The shrimp alfredo wasn’t an option because he doesn’t eat seafood so he ordered the pot roast. The attendant called out for who ordered the pot roast and Knighton, about to eat pot roast for the first time, signaled. One of the veteran players laughed that he reacted like it was his name. Word got around and the nickname stuck even after his move to Denver.
Younger players and recruits don’t know the nickname. But for diehard football fans he’s now coach Pot Roast.