Patience pays off for Knutson (Football)
It took what seemed like forever for him to get on the field with any kind of consistency, but now that he’s a regular receiver with the UNLV football team, Tate Knutson of Anchorage couldn’t be happier.
Grounded and well-spoken, Knutson was more than happy to wait in line and pay his dues as a former walk-on before getting an opportunity to shine.
That’s what made Saturday’s 51-yard reception so special.
First off, it was the longest play of his career and just his fourth catch in a Rebels jersey. But maybe more impressive was that it came on third-and-12 and hushed a West Virginia University crowd of 58,234 momentarily.
“Quieting the crowd, that was a good feeling,” Knutson told me. “It’s something you always think about when you go to play in a hostile environment like that.
“Playing in front of 60,000 was an atmosphere not a lot of people get to experience. Coming in as a walk-on and through my career I didn’t get to play that much, and then to get a chance to get on the field and make a few plays out there … it was exciting.”
Knutson, of East High fame, set up a field goal with his big catch-and-run play that wasn’t by design.
“It was off a corner blitz, so, I didn’t know the ball was coming to me at that point,” Knutson said. “It was just kind of a spontaneous reaction from me and the quarterback, and it was good because it showed a pretty good chemistry between us. He threw right into the corner blitz with that safety came down and I was able to make a play out of it.”
After an all-state career in Alaska, the 6-foot-1 wideout followed in the footsteps of fellow East receiver Casey Flair and landed in Las Vegas. He sat out the 2006 season as a redshirt and then earned his first start as a freshman.
For the next couple seasons, though, Knutson played mostly on special teams.
“It was frustrating at points because, you know, you work hard and you keep staying with it, and you never know when you’re going to get your shot. For me it really wasn’t until my senior year,” he said. “I got a few plays here and there and a few starts during my career before my senior year. I just knew that once I got a shot I wanted to make the best of it.”
But then things started to change. He was awarded a scholarship. And then in fall camp he scored a touchdown during a scrimmage.
“It was a good feeling,” he said. “Making a play in an actual scrimmage like that it was like I got that feeling of making plays again. It was like I was back in Alaska when I was actually playing and scoring. It felt good. It did.”
Knutson carried that confidence from the practice field to game day, paving the way for his finest season. To date, he had four catches for 79 yards.
But like the NCAA commercial says, most college athletes go pro in something other than sports.
His major is kinesiological sciences and he’s a three-time member of the Mountain West Conference All-Academic Team, one of the few recipients among UNLV football players.
“I always try to stay up on my studies,” he said. “That’s a big thing. That’s something that goes along with being a scholarship athlete. I take it real serious.”
But seriously, how do you study in Vegas?
“It’s tough with all the distractions,” Knutson said with a laugh, “but you kind of learn to stay away from the strip. Having all this school work, I’m busy all the time. We don’t get home until late. Yeah, there are things to do after the games. And during the offseason, there’s a little bit more time where people might get in trouble; and some do. But you just try to limit the distractions. It’s not that big of a deal.”