Troy gives safety scholarship after first start, pick

It already had been a memorable day for Troy safety Kyler Knudsen when coach Neal Brown called him up in front of the team to say a few words about him after the Trojans’ 26-16 victory Saturday against Louisiana.

The redshirt junior walk-on had just made his first career start, and his first career interception sealed the win.

“[Brown] started talking about my history in the program, and that’s when it hit me,” Knudsen told ESPN.

Sure enough, he had earned a scholarship.

After Brown made it official, Knudsen’s teammates mobbed him, chanting his nickname — “Rocket, Rocket” — and capping what he said was the most memorable game of his career.

“It was surreal,” he said. “Being a part of the team that went to LSU and won and went to Nebraska and won was special, but for me, personally, this will always hold the top spot.”

After celebrating with his teammates, the former receiver from Sugar Hill, Georgia, left the locker room to find his family.

“My mom was crying. I’m not sure if it was because I played and had an interception or if she already knew I got a scholarship, but I’m a softy and when I told my parents I got a scholarship and they were crying, I started crying too,” he said. “My grandparents were there and my girlfriend and her parents were there. It was really special.”

Knudsen arrived at Troy in 2015 as a preferred walk-on and has been a key contributor on special teams.

When he woke up Saturday morning, Knudsen knew it had the potential to be a memorable day.

During bed checks at the team hotel the night before, Brown told him he would be starting. The news wasn’t a complete surprise because starter Cedarius Rookard was banged up and his status was in question, but the opportunity was no less exciting.

On the sideline during the game, Knudsen told Rookard that if he picked off a pass, he would come find him.

“A few drives later, when they went to an empty set, I was supposed to cover the receiver who ran a slant, but he ran an out. I didn’t know what to do,” Knudsen said. “I’m kind of standing there and couldn’t really see the QB, and the next thing I knew the ball is flying right at me. I thought, ‘I’m going to have a chance to catch this.'”

He did, and Troy moved to 5-0 in Sun Belt play and 7-2 overall.

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