Q&A: Western Mustangs lineman Deionte Knight on his parents, football and seizing the day

Western Mustangs defensive lineman Deionte Knight was just about to go celebrate the football team's Vanier Cup victory when he got an important phone call from the Washington Commanders asking him to participate in their rookie mini-camp.

Deionte Knight spoke to London Morning on Tuesday to share what the past few weeks have been like for him

Former Western Mustangs linebacker Deionte Knight with his mom. (Supplied by Deionte Knight)

The Western Mustangs defensive lineman, Deionte Knight of Ajax, Ont., has been in major demand by both the Canadian and National Football Leagues. 

As he was on his way to go celebrate his football team's 2021 Vanier Cup victory, Knight got a phone call from both the Washington Commanders and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers asking him to take part in their rookie mini-camp.

Knight has also been selected by the Toronto Argonauts as their 10th overall pick in the CFL draft in early May.

After a long week of football drills in Florida and Virginia, the player made his way back to Canada and spoke to CBC Radio's London Morning on Tuesday to share what this journey has been like for him. Here's what he had to say. 

The following has been edited for length and clarity

Q: You're fresh from rookie mini-camps ... tell me what this week was like?

A: Oh man, it was a life changing experience for sure. I got great coaching and met lots of new friends there. I definitely had to push my mind and body to the limit and experience breaking through some new boundaries for myself, but it was a great experience and I learned a lot about myself, and I'm excited for what's next for me. It was definitely full days of work but it was a great experience, and it gave me a great base template of what to expect in the CFL as well, so I couldn't have asked for a better time during those two weeks. 

Q: The Mustangs coach has described you as "enthusiastic, relentless and passionate." Where does that come from? 

A: That definitely has to come from my family. My mom's side are actually Lebanese immigrants and they opened their own pizza business, and they've been working for a really long time in the local Gatineau area. So I get that work ethic from them, for sure. Just, "nothing is guaranteed in life and you have to show up everyday and put your best foot forward, and your best effort forward and attack the day," essentially.

In terms of football and falling in love with the game, it has to come from my father, DeWayne Knight, who played in the CFL as well for three years, and he was a linebacker for Virginia Tech. He's the one who introduced me to the game and he was my pee-wee coach growing up, so just getting that coaching from him, it really helped me in my journey because he knows what it takes to succeed at the high level. I'm extremely grateful to have such a supportive family and I love them so much and I'm glad I can make them proud. 

Q: You're from Ajax, you've also been drafted by the Toronto Argonauts, and you've said your mom has been an inspiration to you. Tell us about her.

A: She's my backbone. Without her, I wouldn't be able to reach that success I have today. She's an amazing woman, she's raised me, my sister, and now she's raising a seven-year-old at the moment, so she's a really busy woman but she's done an incredible job. She's instilled that work ethic and passion into me. The biggest lesson she's taught me is that "Everyday is an opportunity," and that's the advice I took with me during COVID when football shut down and I decided to apply myself a little bit more in terms of my training regimen. That year definitely helped me develop a higher love for the game because I had to take the passion and put it in other avenues of hard training. I did that and sure enough, we came back in 2021 and we had the No.1 ranked defence and offence in the country, and we had a really special year. 

Q: What did you study at King's? Do you know what you want to do after your football career is over?

A: I'm an arts and humanities major with a minor in history. My plan after football is to be in the K-9 unit, I want to work with the RCMP, have my own German Shepherd and serve the community, so that's the game plan right now. 

Q: What is it about football or about team sports that you love so much? 

A: It has to be the comradery. Showing up everyday to practice and meetings with your brothers and building those lifelong friendships has been the most memorable part, by far. Being a Western Mustang, it's a really special fraternity, and group of men I'm a part of, and I couldn't be anymore proud to be part of such an amazing network of supportive alumni. I'm excited for what's next and to keep supporting them in the future. 

Q: When do you find out about where you'll be next season, how does that work? 

A: I just have to play up my season, I have to put some good tape up so coaches can evaluate me because that's the No.1 piece of evaluation — your game tape. I'm going to play out the season in Toronto and then see what happens next, it all depends on what I do out in the field, what kind of production I have. After that I can see what my option are in terms of the NFL tryouts or workouts, so I know that the NFL journey is just beginning and it's not the end for sure.