NORMAN — George Knight’s opponent ravaged his body and knocked him down repeatedly. Before the fight ended, George had lost 40 pounds and all of his hair, and required a feeding tube for any semblance of nutrition.
Throughout George’s painful, months-long bout with throat cancer, he relied on two things that are valuable in any fight: A pair of boxing gloves and a positive, unyielding advocate in his corner.
In the three months since his Sugar Bowl MVP performance against two-time defending national champion Alabama, Trevor Knight’s teammates and coaches have praised the sophomore’s leadership. Much of that ability stems from his knack for connecting with people emotionally, knowing what to say and do to motivate, encourage or excite someone.
Fans get their first opportunity in three months to watch Knight lead the OU offense in Saturday afternoon’s spring game, but nothing better illustrates the personality that has so captivated those in and around Sooner football than the scene around George Knight’s bedside throughout the spring of 2012.
“Trevor was like no other kid I’ve ever seen come with his parents to treatment, and I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” said LaDonna Sutherland, the nurse who worked with George at San Antonio’s Start Center for Cancer Care.
That Trevor could be with his father throughout those hours of chemotheraphy, radiation treatment and the painful recovery that followed was the result of a personal setback that, at first, didn’t seem like the tremendous blessing it ultimately became.
Doctors diagnosed George Knight with cancer in November 2011, about a month before Trevor planned to move to Norman and get a jump-start on his college career.
Just before George began chemotherapy a short time later, Trevor showed up with a gift: A pair of blue boxing gloves with a message and scripture handwritten on them.
“It blew me away,” George said. “I’m telling you, he is in touch with people’s feelings.”
Trevor said his goal was to project a “fighter’s mentality.”
“It was really sad news to get, but you can’t show him that,” Trevor remembered. “I wanted to let him know that I’d be there for him through everything, through thick and thin.”
Trevor couldn’t have become the ever-present rock his father would need, though, without a second bit of bad news in mid-December
Offensive coordinator Josh Heupel called to say there wasn’t a spot available for Trevor until the summer. The Sooners only had room for one high-school early enrollee, and that would be Taylor McNamara because the Sooners weren’t returning any tight ends in 2012.
Trevor had already graduated from Ronald Reagan High School and had begun packing his bags for the move when Heupel called.