Sept. 22, 2005
By C.J. Bowles
From 1999 to 2002, John Anderson was the only Washington player to put a football through the uprights in a UW game. The Florida native did so exactly 100 times, second-most in UW history to Husky Hall of Famer Jeff Jaeger, including six of the 12 longest field goals in UW history.
Talk about big shoes to fill.
As it turns out, however, when looking to the future of the kicking position, all the Huskies had to do was look to their past.
As the 2002 season wound down, a little-known walk-on from North Thurston High School earned the chance to participate in kickoff drills. It was the first time Evan Knudson - half-brother of former Husky punter Channing Wyles - caught the eye of the Huskies' coaches.
"At the time it seemed cool that he would let me get involved that much," Knudson says of Anderson, who allowed him to take some of Anderson's reps with the kickoff team. "Before that I was just a scrub walk-on kicker, but when I started doing kickoffs, people began to notice that there was more than one kicker on the team."
It wasn't the last time Knudson -- whose wavy blond locks look more like they belong on a beach than a football field -- was noticed. Despite having to compete with a freshman scholarship kicker in 2003, Knudson won the Huskies' starting job, ultimately knocking in 10 of his 17 attempts on the year.
Were it not for his blood ties to Husky football, however, Knudson may have taken his kicking talents in another direction.
A soccer goalkeeper in high school, Knudson had dreams of starring between the pipes at a Pac-10 school. Unfortunately for him -- but fortunately for Washington -- no Pac-10 schools offered the senior a scholarship, his only offer coming from Northwestern University in Illinois. Ultimately, though, family ties proved too strong to break.
"I wouldn't have played football if it wasn't for Channing's recommendation," Knudson says. "It wasn't even that big of an option for me. I'd definitely be playing soccer right now."
Wyles insists that he placed no pressure on his sibling.
"I told him that it needed to be his decision and that if that is what he wanted, he should do it," Wyles explained. "I didn't want him to do it based on what I tell him. You never want to force somebody to do it because then they won't be successful."
Wyles joined the Huskies as a walk-on kicker in 1986, before ultimately switching to punter and spending three seasons as the team's full-time player at the position. That story sounds similar to Knudson, who began this season first on the depth chart for the third consecutive year, after spending two seasons behind Anderson.
"He's faced a lot more adversity," says Wyles, who was granted a scholarship in 1988 after his first full season of punting. "You have to be proud of the kid because he's had to fight for his position every year, and he has always won. That says a lot about his character. It will definitely help him in the long run because when life gets tough, you have to stay confident in your ability."
Similar to how Knudson benefited from Anderson, Wyles learned the collegiate kicking ropes from Jaeger. The two remain friends, and Jaeger has worked with Knudson to hone his skills.
"He's been mature since the first time I met him," Jaeger says of Knudson. "He's really serious about what he does and the way he handles himself is really impressive. That goes to his mom and dad; they're good folks. He's an example of what they have done for him."
Knudson has excelled off the field as well. The psychology major boasts a 3.46 grade-point average, and will earn his degree following fall quarter. He has also found success socially, a fact evidenced by the group of friends and fraternity brothers who cheer his name at every home game.
"I love the social aspect of college," explains Knudson with a smile that he is seldom without. "I want to stay here forever. Everybody says college is the best time of their life, and they say it for a reason. I make the most of my time, for sure. Maybe I get a little less sleep, but I don't like to spend time alone. I'm a social guy."
With potentially just 10 games remaining in Knudson's tenure at UW, he now finds himself now in the role of mentor. Despite still not having a scholarship himself, and still having to compete for his job, Knudson has taken it upon himself this fall to tutor scholarship freshman and fellow North Thurston alum Ryan Perkins.
"That's the kind of guy that Evan is," Wyles says. "He wasn't the man for sure this year, but he was still helping Ryan any way he could."
Knudson says he plans to keep in touch with Perkins next year, just as Anderson did with him.
"Maybe the kicker before him did that same thing," he says. "I tried to take the same approach, giving him lots of opportunities and showing him the way. I understand that he will be fighting next year to be the next guy, so I've put an effort into continuing the tradition."
Just like any good family member would do.