By Phil Chardis
UConn Athletic Communications
The UConn football team opened its season in a successful way last Thursday with a 20-15 win at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field over Villanova -- one of the top teams in the NCAA FCS.
UConn offensive tackle Andreas Knappe (Silkeborg, Denmark) made his eight career start and served his first game as one of the team's four captains.
When you Knappe about his boyhood idols and he's more likely to mention William Tell than Peyton Manning. After all, American football didn't have much of a following in Silkeborg. And during his training to become a world-class archer, nobody was telling Knappe stories about Manning shooting an apple off somebody's head with a bow and arrow. Then again, William Tell didn't have to deal with 300-pound defensive linemen bent on running him over, either.
Knappe, UConn's 6-8, 311-pound redshirt junior offensive tackle, went from one passion to another when he gave up archery and turned to football, but, believe it or not, he has found plenty of parallels between the two sports. The training instilled in him through 10 years of archery has served him well as he rapidly improves as an offensive lineman.
"Obviously, football is a team sport and archery is individual, but the focus you have to put into it, the discipline you have to live by, the intensity of the training --- physical and mental focus --- those type of things I can draw the parallels to," Knappe said. "It has really helped me out focusing on the things I have to in football.
"There are so many little things as well --- remaining calm at pressure moments, not getting distracted," he added. "An inch here, and inch there, it definitely makes a huge difference in both sports. You have to be on point in both, if you are a couple of inches off, you are way off. Those are all things I can use in football."
Knappe, also an outstanding team handball player, had watched some NFL football growing up, but did not play until he was about 18 and a friend convinced him to give it a try. He fell in love with the game.
As a high school senior, he played for the Triangle Razorbacks of the Danish American Football Federation, which also featured former UConn players Zach Frazer, Alex Polito and Alex Molina, and a connection was born. When Knappe decided to see if he could play American college football, he registered on a recruiting website, contacted coaches on his own, and took part in summer camps to gain exposure.
UConn showed some interest and decided to take a chance on the unproven big man and the gamble has clearly paid off.
Not only has Knappe rapidly improved to the point of becoming the Huskies' top offensive lineman, but he is extremely popular with his teammates and the UConn football staff, all of whom had a vote as Knappe was elected one of the 2015 team captains.
Knappe, a two-time all-academic selection in the American Athletic Conference, is also on the watch list for the Wuerffel Trophy, which is presented to a player who best combines community service and academic excellence, and is a nominee for the Allstate Good Works Team, for the time he spends helping inner city middle school students.
"Andreas is the epitome of a tough gentleman," UConn head coach Bob Diaco said. "He's a person of principle. He knows he is new to the game and new to the position, but he's working on it every day and getting better and better. His best football is out in front of him. He's just a wonderful leader for the young guys."
UConn offensive coordinator coach Frank Verducci is pleased with Knappe's development off the field as well. "Just to watch his social interaction with his teammates has been very rewarding for all of us as coaches," Verducci said. "You're in the business to watch the young men grow and he's just blossomed since February. It's an exciting time for him and we're expecting great things."