Tim Shramek still considers it one of the best high school football games he’s witnessed. And that’s saying a lot for a guy who’s been a prep coach in Mississippi for almost 30 years, including the past nine as the head man at Germantown High in Madison.
Shramek’s Germantown squad was facing off against Oxford in the state 5-A semifinals on November 20, 2015, in Oxford. The game pitted two of the state’s top players in Oxford wide receiver D.K. Metcalf and Germantown’s safety Nigel Knott.
“Probably one of the best games I’ve been around as a coach,’’ Shramek reiterates. “Metcalf was there and it was a battle of those two. Nigel took a pick six with three minutes left in the game to put us back up.’’
Knott took the interception off Oxford quarterback Jack Abraham back 89 yards with about two minutes left to give Germantown a 33-32 lead. It was one of several big plays by Knott, who finished with a team-high 10 tackles in the game.
The day, however, belonged to the Mississippi-bound Metcalf and the Chargers, who rallied in the final minute for a 40-33 triumph.
But even in defeat, the game was a great example of Knott’s skills on the football field.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pounder will be bringing those talents to East Carolina next fall after announcing last week his intention to join the Pirates as a graduate transfer from Alabama. Knott, a cornerback, recently completed his undergraduate degree at Alabama and will have two years of eligibility remaining at ECU.
“Phenomenally athletic and fast,’’ Shramek said in describing Knotts’ talents. “He is just a superior athlete and he can fly. He can make a mistake and he’s fast enough to fix it. And he’s a competitor. He’s just a football player.’’
It’s not surprising Knott developed into a top-flight athlete considering his family connections. His father, David Knott, played safety at Mississippi in the mid-1990s and spent time with NFL, CFL and arena teams before opening his own gym in Alabama. Mother Sabrina Givens was a high school basketball and track star, and older sister Deja Givens currently runs track at Mississippi State. Older brother Chris Givens is a former All-ACC receiver at Wake Forest and a five-year NFL veteran. In addition, his godfather is Derek Jones, the current associate head coach at Texas Tech and ex-cornerback for Ole Miss.
Knott joined the Germantown football program as a freshman, but didn’t see significant playing time until his sophomore year. Despite appearing in seven games and making 28 tackles, Knott became discouraged due to injuries and considered giving up the sport.
“He’s got a good family and I don’t think he ever seriously thought about it (quitting),’’ Shramek said. “But like any kid he got frustrated a little bit.’’
The frustration didn’t last long. Knott enjoyed a breakout performance as a junior when he made 112 tackles, a quarterback sack and picked off four passes to earn first-team All-State 5-A honors. College recruiters began to come calling, and their numbers increased even more after Knott turned in a 4.3-second clocking in the 40-yard dash and delivered a 44-inch vertical jump at the Nike’s prestigious scouting combine, The Opening, during the summer before his senior campaign.
A knee injury limited Knott to eight games as a senior, but he still managed to make 51 tackles and three interceptions. Rated the nation’s No. 7 cornerback prospect by 247Sports.com, Knott received almost 30 scholarship offers from major programs before trimming the list to Alabama, Auburn, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Oregon. He wound up committing to coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide on Feb. 1, 2016, and signed a national letter of intent three days later.
“A lot of people won’t go to a place like Alabama,’’ Shramek said. “They want to go somewhere where people tell them they’re going to be a star. They don’t want to go where there are high demands and expectations. But he didn’t shy away from them. He went and competed.’’
While still recovering from his knee injury, Knott redshirted as a freshman in 2016 as Alabama won the Southeastern Conference title. He saw his first college action a year later during the Crimson Tide’s drive to the national championship, appearing in regular-season games against Mississippi and Texas A&M without recording a tackle.
As a redshirt sophomore in 2018, Knott played in 10 games and made one solo tackle. But last September as Alabama was to start the ‘19 campaign, Saban announced Knott was being forced to step away from football due to unspecified medical issues.
“Nigel Knott has been redshirted medically, for some of the medical issues that he had,” Nick Saban said at the time. “He’s in school here, we want to support him and help him get an education. He was a very good teammate for a lot of our players. He worked hard, did a good job in this program, but the medical staff felt like it was not in his best interest to continue to play football.”
The decision brought to an end Knott’s football career, or so he thought.
“He thought he was done,’’ Shramek said. “But he was able to rehab and get cleared. I was on the phone with his momma and she’s the one who told us. We were all excited about that and he was excited to get to play again. Then, of course, graduation time came and he decided to do the grad transfer deal.’’
Knott received clearance to play football again in December, then announced in late January via a Twitter post his plans to enter the NCAA transfer portal.
East Carolina became a logical destination due to the Pirates’ need for immediate help at cornerback where multi-season starter Colby Gore has completed his eligibility.
“He just went back and weighed all the decisions about where he was going to fit in and feel comfortable with good people, just like the original recruiting process,’’ Shrameck said. “He is going to be an asset at East Carolina. He is a legitimate playmaker. But some of the best plays he made for us was forcing quarterbacks to throw somewhere else. Just his presence forced people to do things they didn’t want to do. That’s not spectacular like somebody jumping up and doing a 360 dunk or something. But you couldn’t run away from him, and it was hard to throw at him.’’
Knott will join a cornerback group at ECU that already features Ja’Quan McMillian, who earned freshman All-American honors last season, sophomore Malik Fleming, sophomore Damel Hickman and incoming freshmen Sean Tucker, C.J. Crump and Nasir Clerk.