When he was healthy last season, Drew running back Lester Knauls rushed for a team-leading 747 yards and seven touchdowns. He sustained a potential season-ending ankle break during spring practice in May. (Photo by Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — Lester Knauls didn’t hear a sound, but he knew something was wrong with his right ankle.
As he tried to avoid a tackle during the Drew spring game, his foot planted in the ground as he was being tackled.
And soon after, the pain was rushing through his leg.
That was three months and a surgery ago. Now, the rising senior is back walking with the aid of crutches and a wheelchair.
“Everything is a lot better now,” Knauls said as he watched the Titans preseason practice on a humid August day. “I’m doing a lot better. God got me back walking.”
And he has the faith that he will see the field this season for his senior year. It has been that positive attitude that has Knauls a little ahead of the schedule that doctors predicted after surgery to repair some torn ligaments. He walks with a brace on the ankle, but walking is a major step.
“From what we understand, he is ahead of the recovery curve,” Drew coach Jarrett Laws said. “He is suppose to still be in a cast.”
If Drew can make it to the playoffs, Knauls might have an opportunity to get on the field.
“That’s what I’m shooting for,” Knauls said.
Last season, he was the Titans’ leading rusher with 747 yards in a backfield that featured three other rushers. The Titans, who missed the playoffs last season with a 6-4 record, are down to only one returning rusher from a year ago in Marquis Terry.
Jordan Metts transferred to Riverdale before spring practice and Tracy Gaston sustained a season-ending knee injury in a passing league game.
While Drew could use Knauls, the running back said he is not going to rush getting back at the expense of a setback or another injury.
“I want to play this year, because this is my last year,” he said. “I don’t want to come back too soon. I know God has a plan for me, and I’m going to be patient with it. He has brought me this far, and I know there is something for me. I just want to help this team as much as I can.”
Knauls attends the majority of practices, and often offers advice to the younger running backs like freshman Jordan Bolden, who will likely see a lot of playing time. Laws said Knauls’ presence at practice has been a big inspiration to the team.
“There is a void on the field without him, but seeing his work ethic has inspired the team,” Laws said. “Everyone looks up to him. The players see his determination, and it has motivated them. With his determination, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back on the field this year. The players have made it their goal to get to the playoffs, and hopefully give him a chance to play.”
Before his injury, upstart Kennesaw State had shown some interest in Knauls. Kennesaw State will field the school’s first ever football team during the 2014 season.
Laws said that Kennesaw State is still interested in the running back.
“From what they have told me, they still have him on their recruiting board,” Laws said. “I think they are going to watch his progress, and see what happens.”
Knauls is confident that he will play at the next level next season.
“I have faith in God that he will take care of me,” Knauls said. “I’m not really worried about that part of my life.”
He has a 3.7 grade-point average, but hasn’t taken any of the college entrance exams because of his injury.
“I think I should do well on the test,” he said.
For now, he is waiting to start rehab while attending the Titans practices. He does admit that it has been hard just standing there while his teammates practice.
“It’s hard, because you want to play,” Knauls said. “I haven’t had to do this. I come out here to help, but its hard not playing.”