When you look at B.J. Knauf you get the feeling that he's a guy you want on your side. The intimidating stare, the chiseled physique, and the hard jaw all give you the feeling that he's a man not to be trifled with. He reminded nearly everyone of another Purdue standout at wide receiver, Vinny Sutherland. They were the same type of player and actually looked quite a bit alike. Knauf came in with fellow classmate Danny Anthrop and it gave Purdue fans hope that we would have two speedy playmaking wide receivers out on the field at the same time. Alas, that was not to be.
Though Knauf only recorded stats in 13 games over two seasons you just felt like the possibility was there. You always thought the next game would be his breakout. Unfortunately his body betrayed him, as it so often does for football players. In those 13 games Knauf racked up just 29 receptions for 242 yards and amazingly only one touchdown. It sure felt like more. Teamed with Danny Anthrop he gave Purdue hope that a solid set of receivers with good hands.
Think back on the last ten or fifteen years of Purdue football and ask yourself who have been the best receivers Purdue has had? Selwyn Lymon was pretty darn good but we all know how that ended up. Greg Orton was pretty good, and is still bumping around the NFL, but he never put up truly gaudy numbers. The Standeford brothers, Jake and John, were both solid guys on the field with John outshining Jake. Then there are the two that pop up most constantly and I think you know who they are. First there is Dorian Bryant who had the type of career I was hoping for Knauf. The guy was able to get open all over the field and use his crazy speed to rack up yards. He got a lot of crap from fans for being soft but I think that was a bad rap and unjustified. Next, and probably most impressively, is Taylor Stubblefield. All T-Stubs did was break the NCAA record for number of receptions with 325. His record has since been broken but that's still one hell of an accomplishment. The guy caught everything thrown his way. He was like Jerry Rice with stickum on his hands (too soon?). Plus, he gave us this so we all have a bit of a crush on him around these parts. He's currently the WR coach at Utah.
These are the guys I was hoping Knauf would emulate. Of course it's a lot to ask for any player to live up to such lofty expectations but I felt that Knauf had the talent to get there. It's always a shame when something like this happens to anyone and especially a Purdue player I've enjoyed watching. Knauf of course was no saint as he had his off the field incident in 2013. After that incident he took his lumps like a man and apologized for his mistake. I respect that. Obviously that was a dumb mistake but you have to own up to it and move on.
I'm no football player, I don't know what it's like to crash into someone with such force that it gives you a concussion. I do know about injuries preventing you from doing something you love. I'm a runner. I've injured my ankle on multiple occasions and each time when I can't run it drives me nuts. I try to push it and injure myself further. I'm not a smart man. I give kudos to Knauf for knowing when to hang it up. For understanding that there is more to life than football. That he is more than football. If you read any interviews with him while he was out during injury you'll know how clear headed he was about the chance he may have to give up football. It was refreshing to see him speak so openly about the knowledge that football won't always be there. He knew that this was a possibility for him and he was prepared for it. When a guy his size plays receiver at this level and goes over the middle it's something that you have to be ready for. Kudos to him for thinking long term and putting his future ahead of his present. It takes a big man to make that decision. Best of luck to him in his future at Purdue University. Regardless of what happened on the field if he studies hard and gets his degree it will have all been worth it. Once a Boilermaker, always a Boilermaker.