Rangers' Knust adds to family, football legacy

Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Forest Park's Gavin Knust runs onto the field before facing Pike Central on Sept. 20 in Ferdinand. Forest Park defeated the chargers 42-0. 

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

FERDINAND — Forest Park football coach Ross Fuhs has said it a hundred times before, but he didn’t mind voicing it one more time. When it comes to senior defensive end/tight end Gavin Knust, he wishes there were 20 of him.

“On and off the field, he’s what you want,” Fuhs said. “He’s a motivator. He wants you to be aggressive, he’s trying to pick guys up to play harder and win. That’s the kind of guys we want.”

The Knust name has become synonymous with Forest Park football in recent years. Gavin’s two older brothers, Ethan and Eli, wore the Rangers jersey before him, and watching them play while growing up instilled Gavin with a lot of family pride. He couldn’t wait to get his chance to strap on the pads and follow in their footsteps when he came of age.

“My brother’s had a reputation for being good at football,” he said. “I’ve always looked up to them since I’ve been little. Seeing the Knust name all over and hearing it all over when I was watching them play was huge, and made me want to be just like them.”

It goes without saying that Knust wants to be the best football player he can be, but Gavin also strives to be much more than that. He wants to ensure that his impact stretches beyond what he does on the line of scrimmage by reaching and teaching the players around him. He knows it takes more than just individual excellence for a team's success, and wants to help his teammates grow around him so they can be all they can be on the field.

“I didn’t just want to be remembered for being great on the football field. I want to be remembered for being a great teammate, pushing everybody to excel,” he said. “Football is not a one-person sport, it’s a team sport. It’s about making everybody around you better.”

“On defense, he’s always telling guys to ‘watch this’ and ‘watch that,’” Fuhs said. “If I was playing on the defense with him, I would want to play harder, too. He’s very helpful to guys. He’ll make sure guys get lined up right. He’ll go over to the young guys and say you need to do this or that. He’s very helpful to everybody.”

Knust’s helpful spirit comes from a place of humility, recognizing that he didn’t always get it right on the field all the time, and he received the benefit of older guys correcting him to become the football player he is today. He’s not out to make anyone look bad, just guide along the other guys in a similar way in which he was brought along by the older players when he first started out.

“When I was a freshman, I sure made a lot of mistakes, and those other guys didn’t tear me down, they taught me,” he said. “Being a senior, I want to be understanding, like ‘Wow, I made those same mistakes.’ I want to teach them like my seniors taught me. It’s about respect. If you know that guy is trying as hard as he can, you can’t say anything bad about him.”

In addition to being a teacher of the game, Knust has also grown into a unifying force on the football field. Last year’s one-win season saw a lot of splintering among the Forest Park football team, and Knust isn’t keen on returning to that place ever again. He’s learned that as long as the team stays together, it can endure anything, and he characterized the players on this season’s team as being closer than they’ve ever been in a long while.

“It’s all about brotherhood and being tight-knit,” he said. “Last year we argued a lot, and we weren’t tight knit. This year we’re tight, we've got each other’s backs. You mess with one of us, you've got us all. It’s all about respecting each other.”

Knust is excited to play out the final few games of the season, and is relishing his final year of high school football. But after Knust walks off the field for the last time, he hopes his impact leaves the program in better shape than when he started.

“I want them to think ‘Wow, he made that team a lot better,’” he said. “I don’t want them to just talk about me. I want them to talk about the whole Forest Park football team. I want the Forest Park football team to be remembered.”




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