Linemen Cowell, Knoth quietly keep teams' offenses moving

Saturday, October 5, 2002

Life in the trenches can be a thankless job.

They protect the quarterback and open holes for the running back, but they often go unnoticed. In fact, an offensive lineman might be doing his best job when his number isn't called.

So for local linemen playing in college -- like Perryville's Nick Cowell and Central's Craig Knoth -- the fact that no few know them outside of they're teammates means they are doing their jobs.

Knoth, who was a top lineman at Central, is in his fourth year at Truman State. After redshirting his freshman year, Knoth is in his second year as a starting right guard for the Bulldogs.

Although linemen receive little notoriety, Knoth said the appreciation they receive from the players they protect is what counts.

"They know we're the reason they're not getting hit every play," he said.

Working in an offense led by Illinois State transfer Dusty Burk, Knoth said that the line knows it has done its job when Burk has time to light it up in the air.

"In our offense we pass a lot, so it's generally a good game if we generate 450 yards of offense," he said.

Truman State, which has started the season 3-1, has generated more than 450 yards of offense in each of their three wins, and averages 298 yards passing per game.

One of the keys in any game is winning the battles up front. For Knoth, it's that defensive-line-versus-offensive-line battle that punctuates life in the trenches.

"Most of the time it's just one-on-one and who ever's best wins," he said.

Nick Cowell, an all-conference lineman at Perryville, is in his first season as a full-time starter at left tackle for the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Cowell, who has another Southeast Missouri teammate in Kevin Keller of Sikeston, said the biggest adjustment for him from high school to college was the speed of the game.

"Once the ball is hiked you either know what's going on or you get killed," he said.

After redshirting his freshman year, Cowell was primarily a backup last year until the end of the season. Cowell won the starting left tackle spot out of camp this year.

Cowell said the difference from being a backup to starting week in and week out is huge.

"I just had to come out and be more of a leader," he said. "I had to give something extra every day."

Although the atmosphere at a college game is a little different than that of a Friday-night high school game, Cowell said playing at night is still the something special for him.

"It's something about playing at night I love," he said. "The feeling in the air is right, and you get pumped up."

Going unnoticed is something that most offensive linemen get used to. At Rolla, Cowell said their offensive line coach developed a motto that they live by.

The motto is, "We work the hardest, are known the least, but who cares, cause we're the reason."

And so is the life of an offensive lineman, taking solace in the fact that an offense cannot work without them.


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