“Compete”: Northside Christian’s Tahshim Knight

[[Northside Christian's Tahshim Knight--far left. Photo courtesy of NCS Football's Twitter Account]]
[[Northside Christian’s Tahshim Knight–far left. Photo courtesy of NCS Football’s Twitter Account]]
He just wants to compete. It’s not about the size of the dog in he fight this case, but the size of the fight in the dog for Northside Christian’s Tahshim Knight. Knight is an “undersized”–his words, not ours–linebacker, but if the name-of-the-game is production and leadership, then Knight is someone who fits the mold.

Knight checks-in at 5-feet-11-inches and 200 pounds–a size that when comparing him to other ‘backers at the spot, is accurately assessed as being a little bit shy of the ideal frame. Knight’s been on NCS’ Varsity squad since he was a freshman however and he was the only player in his class to accomplish that giving strong indication that there is way more to him than just his ability to compete.

This Sunday will be Knight’s first BCP camp series event since he’s been a Mustang, and his goal will be no different with the pads off–as it is when the pads are on.

“Compete. That’s the biggest thing is to compete,” said Knight. “I feel like I’m undersized, but I can compete against anybody no matter who it is–I’m five-eleven, but I guess colleges don’t think that’s big enough for the position I play–but it’s heart over height anyways.”

Knight’s numbers from this past season show that in-spite of his size, there’s plenty of confidence in his ability to produce from his coaching staff. In 2015, Knight finished the season with 55 tackles, six sacks, two interceptions and four caused fumbles. We asked him what the secret ingredient was coming off a sophomore campaign in which he totaled just seventeen tackles–although he still came up with two interceptions and two sacks.

“Wanted it more–it was a ‘want-more’ attitude towards the grind. This year I expect twice those numbers–I promise. It’s all about focus and really just wanting it more–that’s especially given that this is (our) senior year and we’re trying to go out and win a state title. Nobody’s ever done it in Pinellas County and that’s our goal.”

Knight’s focus and self-awareness about his role on the squad is poignant. He’s well-aware that making the varsity as a freshman is a big deal. There’s plenty of talented players in his class of 2017 including one that’s committed to play division one football. The expectations were set by Head Coach Mike Alstott and his staff early, though. At the time, Alstott was entering his second season as coach and coming off an 0-10 season. That season–Knight’s freshman year in 2013–the Mustangs finished 3-7, but the spark was there.

[[Knight--(Center #5) vs. Admiral Farragut last season]]
[[Knight–(Center #5) vs. Admiral Farragut last season]]
“Actually there were a couple of meetings with him and the rest of the coaching staff–he and the rest of them were just like ‘you’re up for a reason and the first couple of games I didn’t get much playing time, but then I just kept trying to show the coaches in practice what I could do.”

The Mustangs and their program have the obvious goals already set of becoming district champions and making the postseason, but it doesn’t stop there. Knight adamantly emphasized that the Mustangs are trying to do something that no team in Pinellas County has done and it starts in the offseason–a time that can be challenging if the chemistry is not in place in the locker room.

“Since our whole team are juniors right now, we’ve been together long enough that we all our on the same page about the same goals–sure, all of us want to play college football, but making sure the accountability is there and making sure everyone’s out there not missing reps, not defeating themselves and just staying on top of each other–that’s the thing that’s going to keep us going in the offseason.”

Another motivating factor is the way in which the Mustangs season ended. Sure, taking the runner-up spot in the district and making the postseason is nice, but it was a three-team district and they had their chances in that playoff game against a Cambridge Christian team that eventually made it to Orlando. The week before that 19-14 loss to the Lancers, they were in a shootout with Admiral Farragut that ended in them losing the district title. The way things ended were simply not good enough for Knight and his teammates. That feeling he describes is something they’re not trying to experience.

“Even though it wasn’t my last season, it felt terrible because that goal of winning a title was what we had worked so hard for from the offseason all the way through the regular season and into that playoff game–because nobody’s ever done it before here, when we lost that game to Cambridge it was devastating because of the grind we had put in to try and rep for Pinellas.”

Although Knight grew up in Pinellas County and could have attended and played for any school, he knew that NCS was where something special could be started back when he was a prospective ninth-grader taking tours. That bond he felt with some of his other teammates–a bond that’s stronger than ever now–has been in-place for a while like we mentioned earlier.

“When I came to Northside, I actually shadowed not once, but twice because I liked it so much. When I talked to the coaches, you could see the kind of culture and atmosphere they were trying to build and that all began my freshman year with a bunch of my teammates like Griffin (Alstott), DJ–(Demtrius Jackson) DW (Derrick Wright), EJ (Eric Russell)—when we all came together and met–it just felt like a family. It felt like NCS had to be the right place.”

Although Knight’s style on the field is bruising and as he describes it–playing with some anger–there’s an unmistakably positive aura surrounding the young man when he speaks of what the future holds for him beyond football. Even though if he had his way–he’d be playing the game as long as he’s alive–there’s a reason his confidence and his talent is present and he knows exactly what would happen if football was to be no more.

“If I didn’t have football anymore, I would still have my character and my Faith. I’m just a likeable person, but when it comes to football, even though I’m likeable, you have your moments where you play angry and upset and I let it out, but if I didn’t have football it would be my Faith because God’s always been there for me.”