Terrance Knighton claims that the winnng-culture of the Denver Broncos changed the way he plays football. When Knighton came to the Broncos via free agency in 2013, he came as a ship lost at sea. In his last season with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team that was 2-14 in 2012, he couldn’t retain his role in the starting lineup. He had been demoted to the 2nd string in Jacksonville. Ouch.
However, there were still people in the NFL who believed in Knighton, even maybe if he didn’t believe in himself. The man who drafted him out of Temple in 2009, Jack Del Rio, believed in him. And facilitated his arrival in Denver.
Following his rookie season, Del Rio had this to say about Terrance Knighton:
“Terrance Knighton is going to be a real good player. It wasn’t an accident before the game that he was made a team captain. I’m counting on him to lead the way.”
In referring to Knighton as a team captian, Del Rio was talking about the fact that Knighton had been elected as a team captain before the Jaguars’ week 17 loss to the Cleveland Browns in 2009. Not bad for a rookie 3rd round pick to rise to the level of a captain so early on in his career. In his rookie season, he saw 657 snaps on defense, another telling sign of Del Rio’s belief in him.
Over the next two seasons, Knighton anchored the Jags’ defensive line and continued to earn high praise from his head coach. In 2011, he earned a +5.5 overall grade via PFF, and a +2.0 in 2011, respectively.
Once the Jaguars decided not to bring back Del Rio as the head coach, following the 2011 season, Knighton’s fire began to fade in Jacksonville. In 2012, he played a total of 666 snaps and even though he graded out in the positive, with a +4.2 grade, he had lost the confidence of Mike Mularkey. Mularkey was a one-and-done head coach himself, so it’s obvious that we shouldn’t read too much into what happened during Pot Roast’s final season in Jacksonville.
Fast forward to 2013, when Knighton found himself in a new locker room, wearing new colors, he noticed immediately that the culture in Denver was vastly different than the culture in Jackonville. He said this:
“When I first got here last year, I didn’t know what to expect for OTAs and then camp, but you see why guys like Peyton [Manning] and Demaryius Thomas and Von Miller, why they play at a high level is because they practice at a high level. They prepare at a high level. And it becomes contagious throughout the roster and I think that’s why this team is successful.”
My, oh my, how the winning-culture in Denver, and the faith his defensive coordinator had in him, turned the ship around for Pot Roast. Although he got off to a solid start in 2013, he really exploded down the stretch when Kevin “Big Vick” Vickerson was lost for the season with a hip injury. Knighton had to step up and lead and he did so with gusto.
Was there any individual player on the Broncos’ defense more instrumental in the Broncos’ playoff run, than Terrance Knighton? The answer is no. We’ll never forget his 4th down sack of Tom Brady in the AFC Championship game that essentially sealed the victory for the Broncos and paved the way for the franchise’s 7th Super Bowl berth.
In his first full season as a Bronco, Knighton earned a +24.1 grade from PFF (9th highest among all DT/NT), along with the love and respect of his teammates and coaches, not to mention the fans; Broncos Country. He’s been able to parlay that into a tasty TV add campaign. Good for him.
Going into 2014, a contract year, Knighton’s aspirations are as high as they’ve ever been.
“I want to be a Pro Bowler,” he said. “I want to be the best tackle in the NFL. Right now, I’m just watching future opponents and trying to build off how I played later in the season last year once I got into a good rhythm.”
Broncos Country hopes that such lofty individual goals can also lead to the ultimate team prize. The Lombardi Trophy.