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Crenshaw's Jacob Knight looks at Harvard and says, 'Why not?'

The running back wants to show 'inner-city kids will be able to do certain things that people say they couldn't.' His football skills, grades and determination may get him to the Ivy League.

September 05, 2013|Eric Sondheimer

With one adventurous summer trip, senior running back Jacob Knight of Los Angeles Crenshaw demonstrated more leadership than any speech he could have given and more determination than any broken-field run he could have made.

He traveled to Cambridge, Mass., at the invitation of the Harvard University football coaching staff to participate in a one-day camp and campus tour, an experience that few, if any, Crenshaw players have dared to attempt.

Walking on the grounds of one of America's most prestigious academic institutions, Knight contemplated what is possible.

"I'm inspired by Barack Obama, how they said nobody would be an African American president," he said. "I wanted to do the experience to make my family proud and show that inner-city kids will be able to do certain things that people say they couldn't."

With a 3.5 grade-point average and a punishing running style from the school that produced De'Anthony Thomas, Knight should have many college options. But the possibility of being wooed by the Ivy League is especially tempting, if not inspiring, and sends a message to others to dream big.

"It would be a proud moment for this program," Coach Robert Garrett said. "It would be a great opportunity for Jacob. I think he has the right attitude. It shows there's more to athletics than athletics. Trying to reach the highest height with your ability to carry on with your life is what it's all about."

Knight isn't afraid of taking on the journey required to make it to Harvard or any other college. It's about studying and successfully achieving an SAT or ACT score that would convince a college admission officer to give approval.

"I like the challenge, because I want to show people I can do it and you can be successful by trying," Knight said. "As long as you're committed, I believe you can do it."

Knight's football skills will certainly help get him to a good college. He has speed, instincts, vision and toughness.

He, like many of his teammates, thrives on turning skeptics into believers. It happened last season when Crenshaw knocked off Westlake Village Oaks Christian. It could happen again this season, because the Cougars will be underdogs in taking on a demanding nonleague schedule that includes a rematch with Oaks Christian and a road game against No. 1-ranked Bellflower St. John Bosco.

"This is when the tire hits the road," he said of his senior season.

Last week in his season opener against Long Beach Poly, Knight rushed for 58 yards in 11 carries and scored a touchdown in a 28-15 defeat.

While football is important, what he accomplishes in the classroom and in the testing arena will help determine his future. He has no hesitation in embracing both.

"It's not a bad thing showing my friends it's cool to be successful. It's cool to take the time to study," he said.

For Garrett, a City Section coach with so many responsibilities and so little time in a day amid constant challenges, helping Knight fulfill his potential will be a priority.

"He feels it can be done," Garrett said. "He works toward that, he lives that, he talks about that, he walks that. Half of the battle is believing. That has already been accomplished. He believes it. So the next thing is achieving it. The bottom line is, it will be done."

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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