Lone Star great

Tim May
[Eric Albrecht]

A strange thing generally about people who move to Texas is that suddenly they consider themselves Texans.

Look at Davy Crockett, who was “born on a mountaintop in Tennessee” yet died at the Alamo fighting for Texas independence, and all of the other founding fathers of the Lone Star State. It has been the same with sports stars, too, such as Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, David Robinson — even Yao Ming. “I’m a Texan, and Houston Rocket for life,” Yao once declared.

Count Demetrius Knox among the converted. Ohio State fans know the senior as a second-year starter at right guard. And his biography shows he lived in Ohio through the sixth grade.

“I was born in Springfield, Ohio, but I feel like Texas will always be my home,” Knox said. “I always like to call myself a Southern guy … and it’s a completely different feel down there. Football — I mean, Ohio State is Ohio State, but even high school football down there is big.”

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That’s the point his uncle, Jerome Cavitt, made to Knox and his mother, Aledia Cavitt, as he urged them to move the family to Fort Worth years ago. Jerome, already in Texas, thought the already-large Knox would have more of a chance to attract the attention of football recruiters in the land of “Friday Night Lights.”

“It worked out,” Knox said.

Knox enrolled at All Saints’ Episcopal School under the guidance of coach Aaron Beck.

“From the first time I met him in the eighth grade he had all the measurables size-wise, just that one-in-a-thousand guys in how he’s built,” Beck recalled. “But what impressed me about his mom is they were a close-knit unit. I’ve been coaching for 35 years, and there are those kids you see and their parents who really care.

“She saw this was an impressive college prep school, and she entrusted him with us, and it was transformational for him.”

Knox grew into that major prospect his uncle Jerome and Beck expected. He had scholarship offers from schools across the country, including Alabama, UCLA and Texas. He committed to Texas early but changed his mind as the final days of the Mack Brown era wore on. A lifelong Ohio State fan, he picked the Buckeyes, but not without trepidation.

Second thoughts just days before he could sign almost put him on the opposite sideline Saturday night when the Buckeyes play TCU at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. TCU is only five minutes from All-Saints’ Episcopal School.

“Being from that DFW area, I just loved the state of Texas,” Knox said. “Even TCU — I was really considering TCU because as signing day got closer (he was thinking), ‘Yeah, I’m going to Ohio State. Can’t wait. That’s been my dream school since second grade,’ but the thought of actually leaving Fort Worth and leaving Texas, and going to a whole new area and environment, I was just like, ‘Uh, maybe I want to go to TCU.’

“But I stuck to my guns and it worked out.”

Beck said it didn’t hurt Ohio State’s chances, either, that his line coach is OSU alumnus John Bates. A former walk-on lineman for the Buckeyes, Bates is best remembered as the towel-waving, crowd-inciting player behind the bench from 1996 through ’99.

“He didn’t really push me one way or the other, and looking back now, he did a really good job on that,” Knox said of Bates. “He’s a big Ohio State guy, but he let me make my own decision. … (Yet) when I signed that paper, he told me how happy he was and how much he wanted me to go here.”

It took more than three years, really, for Knox to play up to the potential most saw in him, though.

“I think anybody who comes to Ohio State — I mean, the recruiting office and the coaches, they see a superstar in you. … It’s just when can you crack into it, when you can see it,” Knox said. “It takes some longer than others, but when it comes, it’s going to come.”

He leaned on teammates for support during that time, and he said the backing he gained made the Woody Hayes Athletic Center seem not unlike the camaraderie that existed with Crockett and his men inside the Alamo.

“This program is something different,” Knox said. “Every team in the country preaches brotherhood … but here it’s serious,” Knox said. “Everybody in that locker room, I would go to war for. So when times are down, times are hard, you look to your left and your right, and you see the guys really do have your back.”

Offensive line coach Greg Studrawa didn’t give up on him, either. He watched that faith pay off when Knox entered the lineup for an injured Branden Bowen at midseason last year, played like a starter and has only improved since.

“He has come a long way in the last three years,” Studrawa said. “His attention to detail in all areas has improved tremendously. His desire to be great instead of average has propelled him to become the player he is now.”

What Knox is now is a Texan wrapped in Ohio State colors, and a football player to the core. There’s something about living in Texas, something he noticed as soon as he moved there, he said, that stirs that in a fellow.

“Just the feel,” Knox said. “No matter if it’s middle school football, high school football, everything is dramatic down there.”