HUNTINGTON - In spring 2018, Marshall University running back Brenden Knox was not even in the mention as one who would get carries for the Thundering Herd during the football season once fall hit.
To Knox, all the talk didn't matter. He went to work every day with one goal in mind -- prepare as though he was the starting running back.
"Once you are thrown in those situations, if you practice like that, there's not really any drop-off because you are used to practicing like that," Knox said. "That mindset just helps you mentally and physically."
As Knox proved, if a player prepares as such and is patient, good things happen.
Knox excelled on Marshall's special teams throughout 2018 until injuries crept into the Herd backfield and offered him the opportunity he'd waited for since arriving on campus. He did what any good running back would do - he took the opportunity and ran with it.
In five games as a running back, Knox rushed for 578 yards and four touchdowns, including a 204-yard, two-touchdown performance in the loss to Virginia Tech.
"We tell guys all the time that you never know when your number is going to be called," Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said. "We call it competitive excellence. When that number is called, you get your job done. He got an excellent opportunity and when he got his number called, he was prepared to go and had a tremendous end to the season. He was ready to roll."
Knox potentially could've had two 200-yard contests to end the season as he exploded in the first half of the 2018 Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl, but a broken bone in his hand ended his night early in the second quarter with 93 yards on 12 carries in Marshall's 38-20 win over South Florida.
Since then, Knox has worked his way back from the injury, putting in time in the offseason to rehab while going about his business as usual.
Knox has not missed any spring practice time and has looked as strong as ever, taking many of the carries, along with Tyler King and Sheldon Evans in the Herd backfield.
Despite his inclusion as the No. 1 running back for the Herd now, Knox's demeanor has not changed in his approach to each day.
"Nothing is really different, for the most part," Knox said. "I'm just staying consistent and still trying to prove my worth. I want to help this team get better."
Ironically, Knox's first touchdown with the Herd came on special teams when he recovered a fumble on a punt attempt and returned it for a touchdown against Southern Miss.
One week later, Knox made his first appearance for Marshall in the backfield and ran for 117 yards and a touchdown in the win over Charlotte.
"That touchdown was something great because it was the stepping stone for many different things," he said. "I didn't know it would happen like that one week later, but getting into the games and being that starter prepared us for what was coming next."
One of the dynamic things about the 6-foot, 223-pound Columbus native is his ability to merge power with explosiveness. On several runs last season, Knox exploded through the line before using his power and bulldog mentality to gain extra yards after contact.
"He's got a strong lower body and he runs with great pad level," Holliday said. "But above all, he's as good a kid as he is a football player, and that makes him special."
Not only were the advantages gained in yardage, but it sent an energy through the offense, creating a buzz and a bit of an identity as Marshall showed more of a power side late in the season with its rushing attack.
"That comes with the guys I've got around me who believed in me from the jump," Knox said. "They are excited for me genuinely and they are happy for my success, just as I am them."
The 2019 spring is different for Knox, based on his emergence in the lineup and the loss of two running backs - Keion Davis and Anthony Anderson - who were major contributors.
However, as he said before, the success isn't going to change how he goes about his business. He's humble, he's hungry, he's level-headed and he's eager to improve.
"I just focus on the little things -- coaching points, landmarks, stuff like that," Knox said. "I know you can't get too high or too low on yourself because that causes you to mess up and have mistakes that you just can't afford to have."