Dennis Waszak Jr.

Jets rookie running back ‘Bam’ Knight making quick impact

December 9, 2022 GMT
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New York Jets running back Zonovan Knight (27) carries the ball against the Chicago Bears during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)
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New York Jets running back Zonovan Knight (27) carries the ball against the Chicago Bears during the third quarter of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Zonovan Knight was in his playpen making a racket, a rambunctious baby boy whose innocent toys felt his wrath.

“The way my mom tells it, my uncle kind of walked by,” the New York Jets running back said, “and was like, ‘Damn, all you hear is, Bam! Bam! Bam!’”

And, according to the family legend, a nickname was born.

“It was ‘Bam Bam’ at first, but over time, people just started saying ‘Bam,’ and it just stuck,” a smiling Knight said. “I guess it’s easier to pronounce than Zonovan, so people just stuck with ‘Bam.’ At first it was just a family name, but at this point, I don’t care what people call me.”

Right now, Knight can be called RB1 — as in the Jets’ starting running back. And he’s providing the offense with a spark — Bam! — after an impressive first two games in the NFL.

“What he’s shown is that he’s got juice,” coach Robert Saleh said.

Knight ran for 90 yards on 15 carries and added five catches for 28 yards last Sunday at Minnesota in his first NFL start, making him the first undrafted rookie to gain at least 221 yards from scrimmage in his first two games since Indianapolis’ James Mungro in 2002.

“He has just brought such a presence and a style that we needed, in terms of just putting his foot in the ground and digging out yards,” offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur said. “And it usually isn’t even the second guy that brings him down. The whole cavalry usually needs to come.”

Knight has also become a popular waiver wire pickup for fantasy football players, something even he has trouble processing.

“I didn’t expect this,” he said. “As far as being at this point in the season, I definitely didn’t think I was going to be playing. So to come in and just be able to make an impact, it’s definitely a blessing.”

While his nickname would suggest he’s a bruising-type running back, and he can be, Knight is also a speedster. That was on full display on his 48-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Vikings that set up the Jets’ lone touchdown.

“Just pure gas,” Saleh said.

After going undrafted out of North Carolina State in April, Knight was signed by the Jets and made their initial roster out of training camp. He was later cut and signed to their practice squad.

That’s where he remained the first seven weeks of the season until fellow rookie Breece Hall was lost for the year. The Jets still had Michael Carter and Ty Johnson, but they signed Knight to the active roster and acquired James Robinson from Jacksonville.

Knight was inactive for three games before being able to suit up to play at home against Chicago two weeks ago. He took the place of Robinson, who was a surprise inactive. Carter sprained an ankle in the game and Knight took over, rushing for 69 yards on 14 carries and adding three catches for 34 yards.

It was the most yards rushing by a Jets player in his debut since Matt Snell had 82 in 1964.

“I was questioning whether or not I belonged at this level,” said Knight, who was hoping he hadn’t lost a step after not playing all season. “So to get out there and see myself excel and know that I can understand and maneuver throughout the game, that was just reassurance that I belong at this level.”

The Jets thought the same, making him their starting running back last week at Minnesota with Carter sidelined.

“He’s been ballin’ ever since he got here,” Carter said. “I really have the utmost respect for Bam. I’m really proud of him.”

Carter will be back this week for New York’s game at Buffalo, giving the Jets four healthy running backs. However the carries shake out, Knight has certainly earned playing time.

“Oh, yeah,” Saleh said. “He’s not going anywhere.”

NOTES: Saleh confirmed rookie OT Max Mitchell is dealing with some blood clots, as ESPN and SNY reported Thursday. “It’s shocking because you’re not expecting that,” the coach said. “You’re expecting something completely different. But just thankfully for him, he’s got a chance and we’ll get him back soon.” Mitchell’s father John told ESPN his son has clots in a lung and calf, and the condition, which is hereditary, is being treated with medication and won’t threaten his playing career. ... Rookie DE Micheal Clemons missed a third straight day of practice while dealing with an illness and was listed as questionable to play Sunday.


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