Lester Knauls has heeled enough from an ankle injury that sidelined him the entire football season to become a starting guard on the Drew basketball team. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
RIVERDALE — Lester Knauls was all prepared for his senior season with the Drew football team.
But a misfortune happened during spring drills last May. During the Titans spring game, he tried to avoid a tackle, but his foot planted in the ground as he was being tackled.
And soon after, the pain was rushing through his leg. He didn’t hear a sound, but he knew something was wrong with his right ankle.
The ankle required surgery. With the aid of crutches and a wheelchair, Knauls was able to move around. However, that wasn’t how he wanted to enter summer workouts during his senior year.
As much as he tried, the 5-foot-10, 190-pounder wasn’t able to make it back in time for the season.
“That was really the most painful part in not playing my senior year,” Knauls said. “I knew I could have helped this team.”
Drew finished the season with a 4-6 record and third in Region 4-AAAAA, Div. A before losing to McIntosh in the region play-in game for a spot in the state playoffs.
There was plenty of reasons for high hopes for the Titans football team coming into summer spring workouts. Drew was returning all four running backs from a season before that rushed for a combined 1,800 yards last season.
But during the offseason, injuries and a transfer depleted the running back corps. The Titans, who missed the playoffs last season with a 6-4 record, only had 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. Terry missed the first four games with a wrist injury, but healed enough to rush for 936 yards and make all-county and all-region teams.
But there is no question the Titans could have used Knauls, who attended every game on the sidelines.
“I wanted to have the younger guys as much as possible,” Knauls said. “Although I was there, I think I would have been a bigger help on the field.”
During the 2012 season, Knauls was the team’s leading rusher with 747 yards on 115 carries and seven touchdowns as the Titans split the carries among four rushers. He also had seven receptions for 96 yards a year ago.
With the ankle healed, Knauls is back on the basketball team. He is trying to help the Titans get back to the state playoffs after missing it last season with a region tournament loss to Whitewater. In 2011, the Titans were state runner-ups to Columbia in Class AAA.
“The basketball is actually helping with my ankle,” Knauls said. “My (physical) therapist told me to stay active. It is getting stronger every day.”
Knauls has a preferred walk-on offer from upstart Kennesaw State, but is hoping some other schools would make an offer. He said he thought his film from a year ago, and playing basketball, would show schools that he is worthy of a scholarship.
“I’m trusting and believing in God that something will come for me,” said Knauls, who sports a 3.7 grade-point average. “I’ve been working hard, and I believe that something will happen.”
For now, he is concentrating on helping the basketball team.
“Lester is doing a good job for us,” Drew basketball coach Jarrod Davis said. “We can use his leadership out on the floor.”