From the sports editor: Hard to argue that Knight isn’t the best

Running back Will Knight led Smyrna High to three straight DIAA Division I football state titles between 2015-17. Delaware State News file photo

DOVER — It was Dec. 2, 2017 and Smyrna High’s football team had just won its third-straight DIAA Division I state title.

For Eagles’ coach Mike Judy, there was also no question that he’d just watched the crowning achievement by one of the best running backs the state has ever seen.

Will Knight, a senior that season, was just that good.

“If there was a Mount Rushmore of football in Delaware,” Judy said that day, “there would be no argument that he deserves to be on there. He’s that special.”

For many of our readers — especially the ones from Smyrna — ‘Will Knight’ was also the obvious answer to our question about who was the best downstate running back ever.

Clearly, Knight, who is going into his sophomore year at Delaware, has the numbers to back it up. He set the unofficial state rushing record with 6,490 yards and scored 97 touchdowns in the Eagles’ high-octane offense.

The fact that Knight also pulled in 78 career receptions for 1,722 yards and 20 TDs or led Smyrna to three straight Division I state championships doesn’t hurt his case.

“His humility coupled with his work ethic is a thing of beauty,” Judy said after Knight was named the state’s Offensive Player of the Year for the second time in his career. “It took a talented young man and made him a superstar. I’m real proud of him and he’s a guy I’d want in my corner every day of the week.”

Of course, just because Knight is a deserving candidate for the top-running back crown, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some other worthy candidates that were brought up by our readers.

For fans of downstate football 40 years ago, no running back was more impressive than Mike Meade.

The Delaware Sports Museum Hall of Famer ran for over 5,000 yards for Dover High between 1975-77. He led the Senators to the 1977 Division I state crown when he earned Parade All-American honors.

Meade played at Penn State before doing something only a select group of Delaware football players have ever done — getting drafted by the NFL. A fifth-round pick of the Packers, Meade played for both Green Bay and Detroit in a four-year career.

For an even older generation, however, Laurel’s Ron Waller was as dominant a running back as there’s been in the Henlopen Conference.

In the early 1950s, playing when there were shorter seasons and more-conservative offenses, Waller set the then-state scoring record of 464 points in his 22-game career. He earned All-ACC honors as a kick returner at Maryland before being named an All-Pro in his rookie season with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams.

Former Bridgeville coach Ben Sirman watched Waller as a youngster.

“We were disappointed if Ronnie Waller didn’t have four touchdowns by halftime,” said Sirman.

At a position like running back, every era has its own stars, however.

Readers mentioned Milford’s Clarence Bailey, who starred at Wesley in its junior college days before playing briefly in the NFL.

There was also Lake Forest’s Petie Davis, who became one of the state’s first collegiate 4,000-yard rushers during a memorable career at Wesley, and Delmar’s Burt Culver in the 1960s. As well as Meade, Dover can also of boast running backs like Erik Hamilton, Pierre Bowers and Vonnie Peace.

At the end of the day, though, there really isn’t any category that Will Knight didn’t excel in — individual stats, team success, speed, durability and his ability to deliver in the clutch.

“If something’s on the line, he’s the first guy you turn to,” Judy said after that state title game in ‘17.

DSU lands local runners

Delaware State announced that it is bringing in several downstate high school standouts to its men’s track & field program.

That group includes Nathaniel Guy (Dover), Leon Jett (Caesar Rodney), Virgil Reeves (Smyrna), Raymond Nyameke (Smyrna), Michael Rodriguez (Polytech) and Dover grad Tyshaun Chisolm.

DSU coach Steven Kimes was particularly excited to land Guy, whose parents the Revs. William and Tremaine (Grippon) Guy competed for the Hornets in the late 1990s.

Kimes first noticed Guy when he was coaching Wesley College and the Wolverines practiced at Dover’s Central Middle School.

“The Central track team was practicing while Nate was in sixth grade when I noticed this tall, talented kid and thought to myself, ‘He’s going to be special,’” Kimes was quoted in a story on DSUHornets.com.

“Nate is a major prize for our program. He has all the tools to succeed at the college level, is an exceptional student and comes from a great Hornet family.”

Far from home

Here’s another example of how coronavirus pandemic has complicated an athlete’s life.

Delaware State distance runner Katarzyna Rosikon is a native of Poland, who finds herself somewhat stranded in Dover right now.

When the pandemic shutdown hit pretty suddenly, Rosikon could have returned to Poland. But she didn’t think she’d be able to get back in the U.S. if she wanted to return.

“I was put in really tough position and needed to decide what to do,” Rosikon said in a story on DSUHornets.com. “After talking to my family, we all decided that it will be safer for me to stay in U.S. until the whole situation is resolved. I am staying on campus right now, safe and isolated so that’s all it matters.”

While Rosikon has everything she needs, since most DSU students have gone home, she said campus feels like a “ghost city.” A grad student in the biology, she’s keeping up with her work and making the best of the unusual situation.

“I am just trying to keep myself busy as much as I can,” said Rosikon.