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Zonovan Knight’s perseverance took him from undrafted free agent to the Jets’ final roster – Boston Herald

Roughly about 30% of players in the NFL are undrafted free agents.

The odds weren’t in Zonovan “Bam” Knight’s favor after he was signed in May just days after the 2022 NFL Draft.

However, after months of hard work and perseverance during OTAs, training camp and the preseason, Knight was one of two undrafted players to make Gang Green’s 53-man roster, along with safety Tony Adams.

“It was to just come in and do whatever they asked me,” Knight told the Daily News about his expectations after signing with the Jets. “It was a loaded running back room, so I knew I had to make an impact in the backfield but also on special teams. I knew I had to be impactful there because I knew that would make the difference.”

Waiting is something Knight has had to do almost his entire career. After becoming Southern Nash High’s (N.C.) all-time leading rusher with 5,073 yards and scoring 71 rushing touchdowns, Knight committed to NC State. It was there where Knight joined a crowded backfield with Ricky Person Jr. and Jordan Houston.

However, Knight led the Wolfpack in rushing in three consecutive seasons (2019-21), registering 2,286 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns. He also led all NCAA returners with a 34.4-yard average on 16 attempts last season and scored three return touchdowns during his career.

Following his third season at NC State, Knight renounced his final two years of eligibility and entered the 2022 NFL Draft. It was a tough decision for Knight as he expected to be drafted in the fifth or sixth round. Many draft experts also thought Knight would be selected on the third day of the draft, but he did not hear his name called amongst the 262 picks.

“The knock on Knight was his pass-blocking ability,” Rob McLamb, NC State reporter for Sports Illustrated said. “I do not think he was elite at NC State, but I also don’t believe he was as bad as some think.

“Knight has never been asked to be the workhorse, so the body of work is not the same for him as others. The comparison I make with NC State players is whether I could envision them playing at Clemson or in the SEC, which is the most elite version of college football. Knight could have fit in. He might have been given more reps if he had gone to those places instead.

“Knight’s full potential is probably a couple of years away.”

After not being selected, Knight received calls from various teams wanting him to sign as an undrafted free agent. The Baltimore Ravens were the most aggressive of the teams outside of the Jets.

But it was the advice of Knight’s agent that swayed him to sign with the Jets instead.

“He told me it was best that I go with the Jets because of the scheme and fit that we did at NC State,” Knight said. “I hired him for a reason, so I trusted what he said and I decided to come here and everything is working out. I’m glad that he brought me in this direction.”

Once signing with the Jets, Knight had to show coaches and his teammates that he could play in the league. When Knight got to 1 Jets Drive, he entered a room featuring running backs Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Tevin Coleman, La’Mical Perine and 2022 second-round pick Breece Hall.

But Knight’s versatility and flexibility caught the attention of many during OTAs, minicamps and training camp, as he can be impactful in both the Jets’ backfield and as a returner. Against the Eagles during the preseason, Knight’s 52-yard kick return set up the eventual game-winning touchdown. He also ran for 53 yards and a TD on 16 preseason attempts.

“He’s a young man who has a really good running style that matches what we look for in a running style and from a special teams standpoint, being the fourth running back and having great value in that respect,” Jets coach Robert Saleh said. “To him and T.A. [Adams], both did a really good job this offseason and constantly taking the steps they needed to — attack the 40 days off that they had from between OTAs and training camp and hit the ground running in training camp.

“When we got pads on, it felt like they elevated again. Really cool for a guy like Bam to make the team.”

Knight didn’t find out he made the Jets roster until Tuesday morning, when he received congratulations not long after coming into the facility. After finding out the news, Knight texted his mom and his brothers on a group chat.

Knight is optimistic about the potential of the Jets’ running back room with him, Carter, Johnson and Hall. But for now, he will continue to work and provide whatever role the coaches ask of him.

“We have a pretty young running back room,” Knight said. “It is going to be a lot of room for improvement, but I have a lot of confidence in this room.

“Today is definitely different, the energy is different in the running back room. That is something that is just going to take time. We just have to run with what we got and turn things around in the running back room.”


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