Monday, June 17, 2024

Knott not fazed by protest

September 11, 2001

Even though he didn’t play in Saturday’s home opener - a 35-21 victory over Central Michigan - about 100 protesters outside Spartan Stadium still felt Eric Knott’s presence.

Knott said Monday that he was aware of the protests, but didn’t pay much attention to them.

Knott pleaded guilty in June to fourth-degree criminal sexual assault involving a 13-year-old Detroit girl and was granted a full-ride scholarship to MSU in August.

This summer he spent 30 days in jail and is on probation for one year.

He also said he understands why his admittance has sparked controversy.

“People are allowed to express their feelings,” Knott said. “Who am I to say what you can and can’t do? It wasn’t frustrating because I didn’t focus on that. It’s not a major issue with me anymore because I’m here now.”

Redshirt freshman quarterback Damon Dowdell was also involved in the case and was also targeted in the protest.

Dowdell was charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct. He pleaded to lesser charges of assault and battery, he was admitted last fall.

MSU head coach Bobby Williams said Knott and Dowdell’s legal troubles have been misconstrued.

“I think that there’s some people that don’t understand this situation,” Williams said. “They took this whole case and made it into something a little different. I respect their feelings. I wish they would take time out to get to know who these two young men are if they are really concerned.”

Williams also said he’s willing to listen to any concerns about his program, especially from protesters.

“If they would like to help this program, I would be more than happy to suggest ways they can help,” Williams said. “There are some things they can do to support Michigan State athletics. I’m in the Duffy Daugherty (Football) Building.”

Designated as a tight end before the Central game, Knott’s chances for playing time were slim - he wasn’t listed on the depth chart.

But there’s a possibility Knott and Dowdell will play Saturday at home against Missouri. Williams said he tried to get Dowdell into the Central game, but there wasn’t a good time to do so.

Knott, who wasn’t listed on the team’s depth chart as tight end against Central, will now back up redshirt freshman Clifford Dukes.

Knott’s chances were improved after Williams announced Monday that Knott will switch positions and become a defensive end.

It wasn’t a decision he anticipated making, he said.

“It started out during the scout period (of practice), and we were doing some drill work one day,” Williams said. “We had him lined up since we needed a guy. I can’t remember who the tight end was, but he knocked him about 15 yards back.”

Knott said he didn’t see the position change coming either.

“The coaches came to me about it,” Knott said. “I just want to help the team whatever way I can. I’m a team player. I’m not a selfish player at all. I don’t think of this game as an individual game.”

At Detroit Henry Ford High School, Knott played some linebacker, defensive end and strong safety until his junior year. His senior year he was strictly a tight end.

“It doesn’t matter what position I’m playing, as long as I’m helping the team,” he said. “It could be defensive end, tight end, quarterback, I’ll do it all.”

Knott has improved his conditioning, and it should help him contribute as a defensive end, defensive coordinator Bill Miller said.

“He’s a great athlete and can run well,” Miller said. “And that’s what we’re looking for. So we are hoping that we can get him in a position where he plays.

“I think it’s just a matter of time, a matter of him learning and getting used to it.”

Knott should be able to adapt to his new position quickly, senior defensive end Nick Myers said.

“He’s two deep right now, but he has quick hands and good feet since he was a tight end,” Myers said. “He’s got to learn what to do and once he does that, I think he’ll contribute a lot this year.”

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