Ex-Hornet McKnight expects a good fight for a starting slot with the D-III Wilkes University Colonels

Jason McKnight and Shane Davidson each signed with Division-III Wilkes University flanked by Weeki Wachee Head Coach Jacob Gray.

FOOTBALL

“Canada“ will major in

mechanical engineering

at Wilkes-Barre, Pa. campus

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

Jason McKnight

This morning, Jason Anthony McKnight began the 16-plus hour, 1,074-mile trek from his old stomping grounds – Weeki Wachee High School – to his new digs at Division-III Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

McKnight 411

Nicknamed Canada by his Hornet friends and classmates was apropos.

Jason was born as the oldest of two sons to Tom and Tracey McKnight at Brooksville‘s Oak Hill Hospital.

When McKnight was 7 years old, the family moved to Hammond, Canada – near Ontario.

The family then relocated to Spring Hill just prior to his sophomore year on the US-19 campus.

His mother played softball prior to graduating from Central High.

His father graduated from F.W. Springstead.

The blonde-tressed and blue-eyed McKnight traced his athletic roots to Spring Hill Dixie Baseball.

At 4, he played T-Ball and played in the local league for three seasons, alternating from second base to shortstop.

Once his family moved to Canada, he recalls playing baseball for five years, filling in at shortstop, pitcher and catcher.

Prior to entering high school, McKnight demonstrated his athletic flexibility by playing soccer, basketball, hockey, volleyball and track and field.

But in Canadian high school ball – which stretches between 7th and 12th grades – he played baseball.

Once the McKnight’s returned to Hernando County, Jason locked into three sports – football, wrestling and weightlifting – over his last three years at WWHS.

As a varsity grappler, he posted a combined 29-27 mark, highlighted by 15 pin falls in 2016-18 under Dan Gigantelli.

At the Hornets’ Nest, he alternated between guard and tackle on offense and along the defensive line.

The current 5-foot-10, 260-pounder maintained a 3.0 unweighted and 3.15 weighted grade point.

His favorite courses included chemistry with Ms. Fierro and Algebra II with Joe Felice.

Jason McKnight

McKnight easily makes a case for football as his favorite sport.

“Hands down it’s football,” beamed McKnight. “It has the energy and drive you don’t get with anything else.”

In confronting trash-talking defenders across from him, “Half the time, I don’t hear them,” explained Jason. “I’m mostly focused on the guy across from me and making sure I’m communicating with all my guys before the next snap.”

McKnight readily admits the sledding has not been easy to reach the next level.

Mark Lee

“I’ve had a lot of challenges. I’ve basically focused on one aspect of my game each year,” he said. “Physically, my sophomore year was the hardest. Coach (Mark) Lee personally challenged me to be the best player I could be.”

The Hornets’ biggest needs were up front along the trenches – where games are won or lost – at guard and tackle.

“The hardest thing was playing tackle. You’ve gotta have outside containment. You have to be quick and you have to have your head on a swivel.”

Along his three varsity gridiron seasons, “I enjoyed the game and the school. I enjoyed how we became brothers on the field.

“… I feel like I had to have done well, because I’m going to college,” stated McKnight. “When I get to Wilkes I’m bringing my past – my hard work – and my future, too.”

Jason McKnight

Selecting the Colonels

In whittling his list of college suitors, McKnight included Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois, Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio and Wilkes University

He visited only one of his top three – Wilkes – which he opted to attend.

“Ultimately, it was close to my old home. They also gave me the best offer for scholarship money. And Wilkes had better classes that fit me,” expressed McKnight.

“When I met with coach, I could tell he meant business,” recalled McKnight. “He didn’t try to tell me what I wanted to hear. He said he evaluates each player on an individual basis. He stressed the best players – regardless of grade – will play.”

McKnight arrives as a proverbial tweener. He can play either along the O-line or D-line.

“I’ll go wherever they want me to play,“ acknowledged McKnight. “Defensive tackle is probably the first position I ever learned to play. But I like playing offensive guard, too. Everything is really up to what the coaches want.”

Academics mean a ton to McKnight.

“In my family, our first priority was family,” noted McKnight. “After my family, it’s school, after that comes football. I know that if I take care of the first two, the third will be easy.”

Though officially he’s undecided on his major, McKnight aspires to become a mechanical engineer.

He tinkers with designing objects and building robots.

“I love cars, too. I‘d like to design something that could help the world find a better fuel source,” he said.

In the short term, he has lofty goals like becoming a freshman captain on the football team.

Jason McKnight

His long-term goal revolves around his studies and to get that better paying job.

In what’s standing between him and success, “It’s myself,” shared McKnight. “I’m doing everything I can to be a better person. But I can’t afford to be stupid tomorrow. I know I have to believe in myself to become a captain and to eventually get the dream job I’ve always wanted.”

Returning to colder climes may also be an advantage for McKnight.

Recalling when he relocated to Florida, “When I came out for Weeki Wachee, I threw up a lot. I passed out a lot. It was all due to the heat exhaustion. But I made it, so playing up north should be a breeze.”

In leaving Wednesday for Wlkes-Barre, he’ll make the solo trip in his graduation present – in a silver 2017 Ram 1500 truck.

On his legacy, “I’d like to be remembered as a good teammate, someone who tried to make his teammates a little better,” he said. “Being short and stocky, I am fearless. Whatever position coaches place me, I want to make my teammates that much better.”

By the Numbers:

Weeki Wachee’s Jason McKnight (2016-18)

Compiled by TONY CASTRO

WRESTLING

Hernando High’s Fernando Valdez vs Weeki Wachee High’s Jason McKnight at 220 pounds. Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO
 

YEAR

 

YR

 

W

 

L

 

.PCT

 

PINS

2016-17

11

7

7

.500

3

2017-18

12

22

20

.524

12

 

TOTALS

 

29

 

27

 

.518

 

15

This article has 1 Comment

  1. We are all so proud of Jason. He has worked extremely hard for everything he has and everything he will have. Thank you everyone that has supported him and thank you Coach Gigantelli for everything you have done for him.

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