Patience pays off for Golden Hawks quarterback Knevel

Photo: Mathew McCarthy, Waterloo Region Record

Josh Brown
Waterloo Region Record

WATERLOO — Mike Knevel is more than ready.

The Brantford native has been waiting for this football season since he arrived at Wilfrid Laurier University four years ago.

It has been a long haul for the quarterback.

Back in 2013, the rookie watched patiently while other prospects climbed the ladder with the Golden Hawks.

Then, just as he was set to make his mark as a sophomore, he suffered a broken wrist and dealt with the emotional anguish that followed when doctors told him he may never throw a football again.

Now, in his fifth year at Laurier, Knevel will begin the season as the starting pivot at University Stadium for the first time.

“Finally getting the job is great,” he said. “All my work is coming to fruition.”

It has been a challenging journey for the 22-year-old.

Knevel was a late bloomer on the gridiron and only made the transition in Grade 11, when the track and field star parlayed a slick javelin toss into a perfect pigskin pass while attending Brantford’s Pauline Johnson Collegiate and Vocational School.

And he hasn’t looked back.

The prized recruit sat out his first season with the Golden Hawks and was raring to go when he broke a bone in the right wrist of his throwing hand during his second year.

He was later diagnosed with Kienbock’s disease, a rare condition that cuts off the blood supply to the hand, leaving numbness and pain.

Knevel had surgery on his wrist and was told that it would be a miracle if he ever returned to action.

Now, about two years later, he has assumed the starting role for the Golden Hawks, who kicked off training camp late last week.

“Football is a tough sport and injuries happen,” said Laurier coach Michael Faulds. “You just never know how it’s going to work out. Michael is a hard worker. He knows the offence and I know he’s excited to get after it.”

Knevel made his debut for the Hawks last season.

The six-foot-five, 220-pound pivot took over for starter — and close pal — Julien John midway through a match against Carlton, three weeks into the season and never relinquished the job.

The fraternal twin led Laurier to a 7-1 regular season record and its first Ontario University Athletics crown in 11 years, before the team bowed out to Laval in the Uteck Bowl.

“He did exceedingly well,” said Faulds. “Being thrown into becoming a starting quarterback is tough enough, but he got thrown in halfway through a game which makes it even tougher.

“Now that he’s had a full off-season of taking the starting role and reps, I think he’ll be even more comfortable.”

Knevel’s now tasked with helping Laurier defend its provincial title and vie for a Vanier Cup. Being the main man in that quest can be a stressful gig.

But, after four years of battling just to get back on the field, there isn’t much that rattles Knevel.

“I just try to think it’s just football,” he said. “It’s just a game.”

Laurier faces the Concordia Stingers in a friendly Friday in Montreal, then hosts the University of Toronto in their season opener Aug. 27 at 1 p.m.

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