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DETROIT – The journey for James Knapke begins all over again next month when the former Bishop Luers High School quarterback gets his collegiate career underway at Bowling Green.
Knapke rang up points in guiding the Knights over the past three seasons like a slot machine gone haywire and all of those numbers proved eye-catching during the recruiting process. However, in reality, those statistics mean nothing when the Falcons open training camp.
“When you get guys from great high school programs, they usually make the adjustment to college a little quicker than others,” Bowling Green coach Dave Clawson said.
The success that Knapke garnered at Bishop Luers certainly impressed Clawson, but it didn't surprise him. Former Knight standout Adrian Spencer played for Clawson at Bowling Green, so Knapke wasn't the coach's first foray into this area and he vows that it won't be his last.
“Luers has a great tradition of success and they have a lot of stability with their head coach (Matt Lindsay),” Clawson said. “(Coach Lindsay) has certainly shown a consistency in that program and the players that have moved on have done very well.”
In the case of Knapke, the nearly 6,000 yards career passing and 76 touchdown passes made an impression with the Bowling Green coaching staff. However, it was another statistic of the quarterback that was the deciding factor in their wanting to sign Knapke.
“More than anything we just felt that James was a winner,” Clawson said.
Knapke took over the Knight offense as a scrawny sophomore, but wasn't intimidated as he led Bishop Luers to the first of three consecutive IHSAA Class 2A state championships.
“We felt that James was a competitor,” Clawson continued. “We felt that he had very good athletic ability and he could throw the football.”
Clawson and his coaches were also very receptive to bringing Knapke – the person – into the Falcon fold as well.
“He's from a great family,” Clawson said. “James is a really good character guy. He has a good work ethic. He has everything that we look for in a quarterback at Bowling Green.”
Just as nothing was guaranteed when he tried out at Bishop Luers, Knapke faces an uphill battle at Bowling Green as well.
Redshirt junior Matt Schilz is the returning starter and was one of the better quarterbacks in the Mid-American Conference last season. He is backed up by a pair of redshirt freshmen (Matt Johnson and Malik Stokes). However, Clawson was non-committal as to whether Knapke would redshirt this fall or be in competition for a back-up position.
One thing that Clawson is certain of, however, is that Knapke will have a challenging season ahead of him whether he is eligible to play or not.
“Usually college offenses are a lot more multiple than high school offenses,” Clawson said. “So number one you've got to learn the offense and secondly it's the application of that offense against all of the multiple defenses that you are going to see. It just takes a long time for the game to slow down at that position.”