JERSEY CITY, N.J. – The Denver Broncos might just have the person to tame the Seahawks’ beast in Super Bowl XLVIII, and his name is Pot Roast.
Meet Terrance Knighton, Denver’s 335-pound run-stuffer. A mammoth nose tackle who swallows ball carriers as an unmovable, yet deceptively athletic force in the middle of the line of scrimmage.
“Big boy,” said Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch, aka Beast Mode.
Knighton has a big role, too, as the Seahawks’ run-heavy offense will look to control Sunday’s game in potentially chilly conditions at MetLife Stadium. But outside of what could be a crucial on-field matchup is an affable 27-year-old who has become a media darling in the buildup to the game — and it all starts with the hearty nickname.
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So where does it originate?
Let Knighton explain: “Six-hour flight. Guys are tired. Plane is dark and the lady is walking down the aisle saying, ‘Pot roast, pot roast.’
“I’m like, ‘Right here, right here.’ My teammate behind me was like, ‘You’re saying that like that’s your name. I’m going to call you ‘Pot Roast.’ And then it stuck with me.”
It could have been worse.
“It was either that or ‘shrimp Alfredo,’ so I’m glad I got that,” Knighton joked.
The game tape, however, isn’t funny if you’re a Broncos opponent like Seattle. Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Knighton has been an obvious standout in a resurgent Denver defense, which has allowed an average of just 15 points the past four games.
Knighton, on his own, matched season highs with four tackles and a sack in the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots. Not gaudy stats — they rarely are for defensive tackles — but the Seahawks have noticed.
“He’s just a very physical football player; he causes havoc,” said quarterback Russell Wilson.
Added tackle Breno Giacomini: “They have a great defensive roster, but it all starts with him.”
Said tackle Russell Okung: “He’s pretty good at throwing guys around.”
Center Max Unger quipped: “Good nickname, by the way,” before lauding how active and disruptive Knighton is for his size.
Believe it or not, Knighton was an all-state wide receiver in high school at about 235 pounds. His weight climbed quickly, a little too quickly. By 2012, he reported to the Jacksonville Jaguars training camp at 360-plus pounds after suffering a serious eye injury in an offseason fight at a nightclub.
Fast forward to a breakout 2013 season, his first with the Broncos, and coach John Fox was asked how Knighton got here.
“I’ll always put it on players,” Fox said. “As a coach, we spend a lot of time trying to define players. Basically, our approach is, ‘Don’t let us define you. You are going to be held accountable. It is going to be based on your performance, where you are on the depth chart, how much you are going to play. All of those things, you earn or don’t earn.’ ”
Knighton responded. He lost 30-plus pounds while also redistributing the rest of his weight to be more powerful.
“Really, everything Terrance has done, he did (himself),” Fox said.
Knighton seemed calm and comfortable amid the swath of media coverage, having fun with reporters throughout the week.
Asked who would win a race between him and not-so-fleet quarterback Peyton Manning, Knighton said: “Me. Probably by a few yards.”
He joked about hoping to get an endorsement with Campbell’s Chunky soup and how he’s going to Google “Max Unger” to find as much information as possible on the Seattle center for particularly stinging trash-talk. He has a sack dance planned already.
Knighton, though, has also proved serious when needed. The first-year Bronco gave an emotional message in front of his locker to the entire defense after the team’s most recent loss, a humbling Week 15 home defeat against AFC West rival San Diego.
“I think that is what opened a lot of people’s eyes and got us settled in to the stage,” said linebacker Shaun Phillips.
Four wins later, the stage can’t get any bigger for the big Bronco they call Pot Roast.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers