Sammy Knight is headed to the Saints Hall of Fame so I felt like it was necessary to dedicate an entire post to him. He was one of my all time favorite Saints players based on the way he played the game. Knight was part of a rare breed of NFL players that lacked speed, size and respect yet still managed to be elite.
Knight came to the Saints as an undrafted rookie out of USC, much like Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Lance Moore, with very few believers. Knight quickly became the starter, though, and would play with the Saints from 1997 to 2002. In those six seasons he totaled 28 interceptions and also earned an invite to the Pro Bowl after the 2001 season. Like on draft day, though, Knight was deserving of at least two or three Pro Bowls and was passed over for bigger names with less productive seasons.
That's exactly why I loved Knight, though. He was always under the radar and never really mentioned with the greats, yet he continued to produce consistently as one of the best ballhawks of his time and the best ballhawk in Saints history. Knight scored four touchdowns in six seasons with the Saints and he was always in on forced and recovered fumbles as well. He's one of those guys you just refer to as a "baller."
You couldn't put your finger on why exactly he was so good, but he just had superior instincts and football IQ; that made him better than other free safeties in the league despite his lack of speed. Some guys just step on the field and instinctively know how to play football. Knight was like that. The best way to describe Knight was to say he had a nose for the ball. You remember the ridiculous season Darren Sharper had for the Saints in 2009? It was kind of like that, except Knight did that for the team every season for six years.
Knight left the Saints on poor terms when the team elected not to spend big bucks to keep him around. At the time I remember being very upset that the Saints wouldn't pay him whatever he wanted. He was the kind of guy that was never handed anything, but he went out there and earned every dollar he made on the field. We often remember the Dome Patrol and the Mora era as the best years of the Saints defense. But make no mistake that Knight was one of the best defensive playmakers the Saints ever had. Unless you want to make an argument for Dave Waymer, I'd say that Knight is by far the best DB in Saints history.
Knight finished out his career with two solid years with the Dolphins, two mediocre years with the Chiefs and one resurrection year with the Jaguars before landing a nice fat three year contract with the Giants, of which he'd only play one season. Still, Knight played out a very solid twelve year career in the NFL that ended with 42 interceptions and 12 forced fumbles. There's no question the best of those 12 years were spent with the Saints.
My favorite memory of Sammy Knight was a play very similar to Malcolm Jenkins' Thanksgiving day strip. I can't remember what team the Saints were playing and I can't remember when it happened, but I remember being in the Superdome while the Saints were getting blown out. It was an ugly game and the other team made another play against the Saints' porous defense at the time. Knight came across the field and chased that player down - despite being labeled as slow for his position - tore the football out of the receiver's hand on about the two yard line and saved the Saints from another seven points. Jenkins' play will always get more publicity for what happened after his strip but Knight's effort was just as impressive. That's the kind of thing Sammy Knight was always doing.
What's your favorite Sammy Knight memory?