Crystal Lake Central grad Romeo McKnight declares for NFL draft

McKnight to enter 2021 NFL draft after college career at Iowa, Illinois State and Charlotte

Crystal Lake Central graduate Romeo McKnight will forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility and enter the 2021 NFL draft.

McKnight, a senior defensive lineman/linebacker at Charlotte, announced his decision Monday via Twitter to declare for April’s draft. McKnight thanked coaches and others who have impacted him throughout his college football career, which also included stops at Iowa and Illinois State.

“First and foremost, I’d like to thank God for every opportunity he’s blessed me with. I wouldn’t trade my journey for anything and all of the life lessons I’ve learned along the way,” McKnight wrote on Twitter.

“Thank you Iowa, for developing me into a man. Through all of the adversity I faced, I developed a whole new appreciation for the game. I will forever cherish the memories and bonds made as a Hawkeye.

“ISU thank you for everything. [Head] Coach [Brock] Spack, [defensive line] Coach [Brian] Hendricks, [defensive coordinator] Coach [Travis] Niekamp and [assistant head coach player personnel] Coach [Khenon] Hall, I am especially grateful for being great mentors, not just football coaches. Thank you for holding me to the highest standard and providing me with an opportunity to live out my dreams. Proud to have gotten my degree from Illinois State! #RB4L

“Charlotte, thank you for taking me in like family. In an unprecedented season where no game was guaranteed, I was fortunate enough to have built relationships and created a brotherhood among my teammates that I’ll have for the rest of my life.

“There are so many people that helped me get to this point. I am forever grateful.

“After discussing my next move with those closest to me, I will continue to pursue my childhood dream and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.”

McKnight led Charlotte with five tackles for loss and 24 total tackles, fifth most on the team, and earned All-Conference USA honorable mention honors on defense.

In December, McKnight was selected for the East-West Shrine Bowl All-Star game, which was scheduled for Jan. 23. That game won’t be played because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Players, however, still are invited to participate in virtual training sessions leading up to the NFL draft, held April 29 to May 1 in Cleveland.

The NFL Scouting Combine is scheduled March 8 to 11.

By announcing his plans to enter the NFL draft, McKnight will forgo his final year of NCAA eligibility. Once a player declares for the draft, they cannot return to play in college.

McKnight transferred to Charlotte from Illinois State after the Missouri Valley Football Conference delayed its season until spring 2021 amid the pandemic.

McKnight played at defensive end in his two years at ISU. In his last season there, he had 12 1/2 sacks, 16 1/2 tackles for losses and 64 tackles as one of the top pass rushers in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision.

McKnight was highly coveted out of high school and poised for a big senior year at Central but suffered a torn ACL and missed that year. He signed with Iowa out of high school but did not see any game action in two seasons as he battled injuries.

McKnight will try and join a group of local athletes-turned-NFL players that currently includes Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle and XLV Super Bowl champion Bryan Bulaga (Marian Central), Green Bay tight end Robert Tonyan (McHenry), Arizona linebacker Dennis Gardeck (Crystal Lake South), Washington offensive lineman Mike Liedtke (Woodstock) and quarterback Chris Streveler (Marian Central) and Jacksonville placekicker Josh Lambo, who grew up in Crystal Lake.

Alex Kantecki

Alex is a sports writer for the Northwest Herald with a focus on preps. He has been with Shaw Media since 2014.