MISSOULA — It's been a long road back to the football field for Marcus Knight.
In 2019, Knight put together an All-American season at running back for the Montana Grizzlies football team, but the COVID-19 pandemic and injury have since halted his return to the field. But this fall camp, Knight is back healthy and ready to go and pick up where he left off.
Knight rushed for 1,030 yards and a school record 23 touchdowns in 2019. He also set a school record of total touchdowns that year with 25 as well as the record for most points scored.
The Grizzlies didn't play a season in 2020 and an ACL tear in the spring of 2021 prevented his return last fall, and it's been anything but easy to get back.
"It was really tough though especially away games like the Washington game, stuff like that just hurt really bad," Knight said. "I’m still trying to overcome it but hopefully when I get out there and finally I’ll be like we’re good, we’re good."
It was about finding ways to discover help and distract himself while recovering from that devastating injury.
"It was very challenging," Knight said. "Basically my dad walking me through it, he went through the same injury. So he helped me a lot and then the working out, like I just really got into working out to get my mind off things, and music."
Knight had never dealt with an injury of that magnitude before, and the mental toll was a difficult hurdle to overcome.
"Like the mental side of it like with kind of anxiety stuff and overthinking and stuff and learning how to calm yourself," Knight explained. "Don’t overthink the little things, like stay on track, consistent improvement and stuff like that. It’s been a really big lesson actually."
And while it was hard, Knight sees the injury and time off as a moment of growth.
"I paid attention all of last year for all of the plays, so I’m used to all of that, but it feels good to sit in the huddle and 'ok I got that,'" Knight said. "So it feels really good to be out running around being officially part of the team."
Knight has been taking part in drills and ramping up his contact as he works his way back into a normal routine.
"We have a medical report everyday on how guys are doing and he seems to be tolerating it pretty well," UM head coach Bobby Hauck said. "Just like any guys with that injury you've got to get them back into it and he's been out for a while. I think he looks fine."
It's been almost three full years since Knight stepped on a football field — his last coming against Weber State in the FCS playoffs on Dec. 13, 2019 — but he also paid attention during his time off so he could be ready when his return happened.
"Now it’s like getting to the point where I’m happy it happened," Knight said. "Because it’s like, this is life, and it’s a big adversity lesson. I’m learning a lot from it."
The Griz have a deep group at running back, and Knight's comeback adds a jolt to Montana's offense, especially if he can return to full form from his 2019 production.
"Like I didn’t play football for two years in high school and I came back in and I was fine so like I mentally know I can come back in and be OK," he said. "I’m just ready. I'm angry at this point so it’s like nothing is going to stop me when I come back."