Washington Evening Journal
http://washington-ia.villagesoup.com/p/1055111

Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 31, 2014

The Sergeant/ Honey Badger

By Hunter Tickel | Sep 12, 2013
Photo by: Hunter Tickel

He’s the most outspoken player on the team and arguably the busiest. Both of these traits have made him one of the more liked teammates on the Demon football team.
Senior Tanner Knupp is a key component of the Demon team. He lines up as a punt returner, running back and linebacker.
“You look at a game and it’s broken into thirds — offense, special teams and defense,” he said.
Knupp doesn’t line up for every play, with the lone exception being the kickoff.
“No matter how good you are, you can’t play every snap of the football game,” he said. “Every kid needs a rest.”
With the several hats Knupp gets to wear, he takes pride in several situations that he gets to partake in.
“The best part is you get to hit legally as coach stresses,” Knupp said. “If we are up by seven I love to hit somebody. If we are down by a couple points and we are on offense, I love catching, running the ball for a couple extra yards.”
At first glance he doesn’t have the look of a gridiron player, standing at just 5-foot-8 and weighing 165, let alone a linebacker. But what he lacks in stature he makes up for with will.
“I love football,” he said. “I’m not the biggest, strongest guy on the team, but at the same time my heart is just as big as any other guy.”
He quickness helps too, whether he is pursuing a ball carrier or juking players in the open field after a catch or carry.
“I’m not the fastest kid; I think I’m quicker than I am top-speed fast,” he said.
He credits his toughness and scrappiness to his days as a wrestler in the winter.
“It’s a lot of speed, a quick pace and not a lot of break time,” he said.
Two games into Knupp’s final season, he is second on the team in tackles with 14 and first in solo and solo tackles for a loss with four and three, respectively.
On offense he leads the team with 6.4 yards per carry on 10 attempts.
Playing for Washington was on his mind as early as grade school. As a freshman he got a taste of Friday night lights before his dream became a reality as a sophomore. 
“Yeah, come Friday nights, [my teammates and I] would support the Demons from fifth grade on when we got pads,” he said. “You never thought your opportunity would ever come to be on that varsity field. It’s our time to shine. It is a dream come true now that we are here.”
Knupp continues to bounce back and influence all aspects of the game. He said that this physical game comes down to execution in your head.
“It’s the mental game,” he said. “Every player is going to admit they are dog-tired at the end of the game, but during the 48 minutes that we are playing it’s a mental game. It’s mind over matter.”
During his three seasons, he has picked up a couple of nicknames. This year it is “the sergeant.” Last year it was the “honey badger.” He embraces his latest name.
“I’m not the kid that shies in the back,” he said. “I want to take the bulls by the horn and go after it. It’s definitely not an insult; a different kid would take it as insult that he talks too much or yells too much. I’m more of a vocal guy than an example.”
He is in good company after being given the same nickname last year as Arizona Cardinal free safety Tyrann Mathieu.
His idol is Drew Brees, who is undersized at 6-foot-0, like Knupp. 
“I look up to Drew Brees,” he said. “The mentality he has on and off the field is unspeakable. He is a heck of a leader.”

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