UW Health Sports Medicine 

Lucas at Large: With help, Knox finds his way to Madison


- Related: Varsity Magazine - The QB Question

A funny thing happened to Chase Knox on his way to New York City, Columbia University and the Ivy League -- fate and a couple of former NFL quarterbacks intervened on his behalf.

As a result, Knox -- the "other'' California quarterback; the one not named Bart Houston, whose arrival has been delayed due to injury -- ended up in Madison and on the UW roster for training camp.

"Everything just fell into place,'' said Knox, a freshman from San Diego.

Little did he know that when he got to camp that sophomore quarterback Joe Brennan, the backup to Russell Wilson last season, would be seeking to transfer to another school.

That has elevated Knox to No. 4 on the depth chart behind Danny O'Brien, Curt Phillips and Joel Stave -- in no particular order since the rotation has yet to be determined among the top three.

In the meantime, Knox has summarily assumed the role of scout team quarterback.

"He's a great fit, a great kid, and he has done a great job,'' gushed Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada. "He's an unbelievably intelligent football player.

"Everything that has been installed, he knows front to back. He can get on the board and teach it to you right now. He knows the system, he knows the signals, he knows everything. He's a special kid.''

Knox also knows what the Badgers want out of him, for now.

"I want to play some day,'' he said. "But I want to come in and work as hard as I can every day and continue to learn from all of these guys, master the offense and do whatever I have to do.''

So how did he wind up at Wisconsin?

Some Pac-12 schools -- Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State -- had expressed mild interest during the recruiting process. But nobody was willing to make a strong commitment.

Knox settled on Columbia, an FCS program, because "I just wanted a strong Ivy League school.''

That was before he crossed paths with Canada and UW linebackers coach Andy Buh.

"Coach Buh initiated it all,'' Knox said.

Buh, a California native (Escondido), still has many contacts in the state from his previous coaching stops at San Diego State, Fresno State and Stanford.

"So we were doing some recruiting, we were out there looking,'' Canada said of their recruiting foray into Southern California, "and we talked to a couple of people about our situation.''

The word got out to people like San Diego-based quarterback guru George Whitfield. In turn, Buh and Canada heard nothing but good things about Knox from a variety of sources.

"We then had a couple of guys call on his behalf,'' Canada said. "And that carries a lot of weight when a guy in the Hall of Fame calls you. Steve Young and Jeff Garcia were the two calls.''

Young, a member of the college football and pro football halls of fame, was the MVP of the NFL in 1992 and 1994 and the MVP of Super Bowl XXIX. Garcia was a four-time Pro Bowler.

Both felt Knox should not be overlooked because he might be undersized. He's listed at 6-1.

Beyond that, Canada said, "Their point was, 'Here's a great person and intelligent football player and we think he deserves a shot.''' Buh, Canada and UW coach Bret Bielema agreed.

"He has come in here,'' Canada said, "and he has not disappointed.''

As fate would have it, Knox is now playing in Madison after playing for Madison.

Knox played two years at Madison High School in San Diego.

His transfer from Brophy Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., to Madison High became quite a controversy.

The California Interscholastic Federation, at one point, ruled that Knox had made an "invalid chance of residency'' and forced Madison High to forfeit all 11 victories in which Knox had played.

That included the 2010 Division IV San Diego section championship game at Qualcomm Stadium.

Knox completed 20-of-32 passes for a career-high 385 yards and three touchdowns in leading Madison to a 40-14 win over Valley Center in that title game.

After Knox was declared retroactively ineligible, the Knox family fought back by suing the CIF and winning the case, which restored Knox's eligibility and all the victories to Madison High.

"I wanted the wins for the team,'' Knox said. "For me personally I just wanted to play my senior year, which wasn't going to happen if that (the lawsuit) didn't go through, so obviously that was huge.

"It just taught me to put things that are unimportant behind you and it taught me focus. That whole season I had to focus on things that I could control and not the things that I couldn't.''

While Knox has been toiling as a scout team quarterback against UW's No. 1 defense in training camp, Canada has been in the process of evaluating O'Brien, Phillips and Stave for the No. 1 job.

"Camp is camp, they're up and down,'' Canada said. "Obviously, it's getting closer and closer to that game (the Sept. 1 opener against Northern Iowa) every second that ticks.

"We will continue to evaluate. Each of them has tremendous strengths. Joel Stave is a big-armed guy; Joel is a big-time football player, no question. But he's a freshman who has never played.

"Curt Phillips has played in some games here and he has been around for a long time. He's battling back (from three ACL surgeries) and knocking the rust off.

"Danny O'Brien is new to our program, but he has game experience (17 starts at Maryland). You can see that when he's out there playing.

"As you sit here and watch,'' Canada said, "it's not like you can look out there and say, 'These two guys are good and when that other guy is in there, you can tell (the difference).'

"We've got three guys who are playing pretty well.

"It's not a problem, it's a tremendous opportunity.''

To find one who will start the opener.