Nearly two years ago, Evan Knipp planned to take the field in his usual spot.
That would be behind the quarterback, of course.
"Two weeks leading up to the first game, I was slated to be the starting fullback," Knipp said. "Our coaches were like, ‘Wow. He’s athletic. Let’s put him at fullback.’"
Eventually, the Hudson football team put the kibosh on such an outside-the-box experiment.
Surprisingly enough, Knipp hasn’t looked back since.
Knipp, who recently completed his senior year at Hudson High School, is planning to continue his academic and football careers at Case Western Reserve University, a private research university in Cleveland.
The former Explorers left tackle plans to major in computer science or computer engineering.
Knipp, who also spent some time at linebacker for Hudson, chose the urban 155-acre campus over Oberlin and the Spartans’ main rival, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.
"What really stood out about Case is it has a fantastic football program mixed in there with the academics," said Knipp, who earned Division II Northeast Inland all-district and second-team All-Suburban League National Conference honors in 2019. "They have been at the top of the conference for awhile."
The Spartans, who play in the Presidents Athletic Conference, have won 23 conference championships in their history. Last year, Case Western finished 9-2 overall and reached the opening round of the Division III playoffs.
The Spartans won’t have the same fantasies as the Explorers did when it comes to their new 6-foot-1, 230-pound recruit. Knipp is expected to line up in front of his quarterback rather than behind him.
"When I went on an overnight visit, I clicked with the guys really well," Knipp said. "I loved the culture there. I decided it would be fun to go to a great academic school."
Considering that he was a scholar athlete, Knipp certainly earned the right to apply at the institution located in a neighborhood known as University Circle.
He was pretty decent on the football team, too.
Thanks to Knipp and the rest of his not particularly mammoth friends on the offensive line, Hudson finished 7-4 last fall. The Explorers, who returned to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus, set several school records in the process.
Hudson scored 432 points, gained 4,559 yards, ran 736 plays and had two players gain more than 1,000 yards. By the way, Knipp, who was a team captain, helped the Explorers finish in a three-way tie for the National Conference title.
"Evan is a phenomenal student," said Jeff Gough, who has been Hudson’s head football coach since 2016. Evan and (former defensive end) Tyler Scherer are Eagle Scouts, too. This year, Evan was thrust into the left-tackle role. He, along with (former offensive lineman) Mason (McLaughlin), were our leaders on the offensive line."
Thanks to their nimble, balletic offensive line, the Explorers threw a monkey wrench into their plans during two-a-days. Hudson decided to floor the gas pedal and go without a huddle on every single play.
Like many of his teammates, Knipp let out a few groans when Gough and his staff encouraged their players to run, run and run some more.
At the same time, though, Knipp knew his leaders were onto something. Just like the English rock band Herman’s Hermits, something told Knipp that he was "into something good."
"We embraced the challenge," he said. "Was it hard? Yes, but it was definitely worth the payoff. We would see the other teams with their hands on their knees after we’d line up after every play. We were able to impose our will against them."
Don’t let Knipp’s intellectual capabilities mistake him for a cuddly teddy bear. Just because Knipp is a brainiac doesn’t mean he lacks a grizzly bear’s mean streak.
"Evan is physical and nasty in games and during practice," Gough said. "He has a great personality. He’s competitive. He’s an extremely intelligent kid with a tremendous work ethic. He was able to lead the young guys and help me get the pulse of the room. I’m excited about what he does in the future."
Knipp credits former offensive line coach Michael Sheridan for his development. He also gave a shout out to current offensive line coach Shane Reid for his tutelage.
Knipp won’t forget about his head coach either.
"It was unlike any coaching I ever had before," he said. "Coach Gough and the rest of the coaches really made it a point to connect with the players on a personal level."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_Gannett.