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Oil City RB Ethen Knox continues to lead country in rushing

Oil City RB Ethen Knox continues to lead country in rushing
Ethen Knox (No. 2) is the only player in high school football history to rush for 400 yards five times in one season. (Courtesy: Ethen Knox)
Isaiah Butler

OIL CITY, Pa. (BVM) — Now and again, generational athletes come through the high school ranks; players like Derrick Henry, Drew Novak or Travis Hunter. There could be another player of that caliber climbing in the high school ranks. His name is Ethen Knox.

Knox grew up playing many sports, including soccer. He played soccer until the fourth grade and then decided he wanted to try football.

“When I was younger, I used to play YMCA soccer,” Knox said. “Then I started to play football, so I dropped soccer. Since then, I played a whole bunch of positions; I’ve been all over the place. I used to play lineman, then fullback. I just switched to running back last summer, and I played wide receiver before that. Just threw me right into it.”

But it wasn’t just Knox who encouraged himself to play football. His father, Josh, who played at Oil City as well, thought his son should give the sport a shot. It was the right call.

“My dad played football; he pushed me to play it,” Ethen said. “We’d always play football in the backyard and stuff.  I was like, ‘Screw it, why not?’ It was like a reality check [though]; I didn’t realize it was so complicated.”

Now, after a number of years playing football, Ethen has not only become a standout athlete in Pennsylvania but the whole country. The junior running back has rushed for 2,957 yards in eight games. He’s also rushed for 33 touchdowns. 

What Ethen is in the midst of doing is remarkable. Anyone can see that. But Ethen is not letting his accomplishments overshadow what his team is trying to accomplish together. 

“It’s definitely cool when you first hear it,” Ethen said. “I think I started to lead it in week four or something like that. It was definitely cool knowing I was leading, but I just kind of brush it off and push it to the back of my mind focusing on each week.”

Ethen’s had that mindset since his sophomore year when he and the Oilers finished with an overall record of 3-5. It wouldn’t be hard for one to see how that would be disappointing to a competitor like Ethen. But he and his teammates went back to work and made sure a season like that wouldn’t happen again.

“We all definitely wanted a big bounce-back season, and no one was really satisfied with that (3-5 season),” Ethen said. “We all just wanted to work really hard so we could have a better season this year and build on everything we did last year.”

Along with Ethen and his team putting in the work to improve, the Oilers coaching staff, led by Dan York, made sure to put Ethen and his teammates in the right positions to win games. They also continue to provide the necessary motivation to win on and off the football field. 

“Coach York is a great head coach,” Ethen said. “He’s very supportive, and he’s always pushing us all to be our best. He’s pushing us to get in the weight room and work hard. He obviously wants our team to do well, but he also wants us as individuals to go far in life, whether that’s with football or just outside of that. We have a pretty great group of coaches, and they’re all really supportive.”

Because the coaching staff and others have helped Ethen reach the right situation, it also helped colleges around the area take notice of his talent. Those schools include Pitt, Ohio and Westminster. Ethen has taken unofficial visits to all three schools.

“I try to enjoy the whole recruitment process and get to seeing these cool schools,” Ethen said. “But I also try not to let it get to me and be my [main] focus. I try to focus on each week and make sure I play well and make sure everyone plays well.”

With his leadership capabilities and strong play on the field, colleges will surely notice that, including those people not associated with Ethen or his team. Sometimes, comments made by those people can be quite pessimistic, but Ethen doesn’t pay too much attention to those comments.

“I just go out there and play my game,” Ethen said. “I don’t like to worry about what other people say and definitely do see ‘those comments.’ I don’t let it get to me, and I try and go do my thing on Friday night. I don’t worry about what random people on the internet have to say about me.”

Nonetheless, Ethen’s journey has been a special one and he still has a long way to go. He’s still aiming for noise, and schools are or at least should be paying attention to what he’s doing on the field. One can see if Ethen continues to dominate on the football field like he does now, there’s no question he should continue to play the game he loves so much further down the road.

“Football has been, I don’t want to say, my whole life, but I’ve definitely focused on football for a while now,” Ethen said. “I’ve put a lot of work into this sport, and I definitely want to make it [to the next level]. [This sport] definitely means a lot to me.”