Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight runs across the field in celebration after running back Trayveon Williams scored a touchdown in the second half during an NCAA college football game against Auburn, Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Br
Brynn Anderson
September 21, 2016

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) When Trevor Knight was benched at Oklahoma last year he could have accepted that he'd spend the rest of his career as a backup.

Instead, the quarterback transferred to Texas A&M as a graduate student where he received a second chance to start, and so far it's paid off for both Knight and the 10th-ranked Aggies who are 3-0 heading into Saturday's game against No. 17 Arkansas.

Poised and confident, the 22-year-old Knight doesn't show any sign of annoyance or discomfort when asked to recount his experience last season when Baker Mayfield took his job after sitting out the season as a transfer from Texas Tech.

''As a competitor you want to be on the field,'' Knight said. ''So anytime you play a lot early and get that taken away from you, does it hurt? Absolutely. I want to be on the field and that's the only reason I left OU in the first place.''

Now that he is thriving in a new place, Knight said he actually appreciates the detour his career took.

''It's kind of a cool story,'' he said. ''Not many times do you see a guy that gets benched and then can come back and play good football the next season?''

And that's exactly what Knight is doing. He's thrown for 835 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 154 yards and three more scores, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime against UCLA. His play has helped the Aggies crack the top 10 after opening the season unranked.

Coach Kevin Sumlin appreciates his background and is perhaps most impressed by the way he handled being benched.

''Because of the kind of person he is, he looked in the mirror and said: `Hey look I need to do some things, I can be better,''' Sumlin said.

Knight joined the team in January and provided stability to an offense that was left searching for a new signal-caller after the transfers of both Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen in December. Sumlin is quick to laud Knight for filling a major void in the team, but knows the quarterback also needed the Aggies.

''We filled a void for him, too, and it gave him an opportunity and a second chance to show what he can do on a big stage,'' Sumlin said. ''A lot of people don't get that chance and he's very, very happy about it. We're happy about it.''

Knight's solid play is certainly the most important part of his resurgence at Texas A&M. However, coaches and players alike rave about the way he stepped in and immediately took over a leadership role. Sumlin often references Knight's age and maturity, which is a stark contrast to the mostly freshman players who have lined up at quarterback in Sumlin's time at A&M.

Knight started 15 games in his first two seasons with the Sooners with the highlight coming when as a freshman he earned MVP honors in a 45-31 Sugar Bowl win over Alabama by throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns.

Sophomore receiver Christian Kirk took to Knight immediately and loves having a veteran player to learn from.

''He's so experienced and you can see his poise, especially in these big games that we've already played,'' Kirk said. ''He's always calm, he never gets down ... he's been around and he's played a lot of games and he's seen a lot of stuff. So to have that it helps out the young guys like me coming into my second season.''

While the Aggies are happy with Knight's work so far, Sumlin and his staff are still working on ways to improve his play. Sumlin believes his past has made him more open to constructive criticism and honest communication about how to ''eliminate some of the football that created the situation of him losing his job.''

''What we try to do and where we've made a real effort is trying to eliminate bad football,'' Sumlin said. ''That's not always going to be the case, but there's a conscious effort to do that in practice and with him in particular and he wants to be great.''

Knight and the Aggies will need to continue to improve with a tough October ahead with games against South Carolina, No. 14 Tennessee and top-ranked Alabama.

The well-traveled quarterback has been around enough to know that three good games in September won't mean much if the Aggies don't build on that success. Still, after where he was last year at this time he is savoring his early success.

''Obviously, we haven't proved anything yet, we've got a long way to go, but I think it's kind of been apparent to the country that I made the right decision,'' he said. ''And I feel like I made the right decision for my last year.''

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Online: AP College Football website www.collegefootball.ap.org

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