HAMILTON -- As opening day approaches, Hamilton's star defender has done everything he can to prepare for the season after missing time in training camp.
Fresh off earning recognition for being the CFL's Most Outstanding Defensive Player last season, Markeith Knowlton was sidelined for the early part of training camp with a toe injury. Although all's well with Knowlton's foot these days, spending time away from the gridiron was a challenge for the Ticats' outside linebacker.
"It was kind of hectic just sitting there watching," said Knowlton. "I practised a couple of days but I wanted to be out there to get my rhythm down. I am ready to play football for the whole six months."
Knowlton played in the Ticats' second preseason game and is champing at the bit to get into regular season action with his team's new-look defence.
With Corey Chamblin taking over in the off-season as defensive coordinator, Knowlton had to watch his teammates make adjustments and make his own changes from off the field. The Ticats are playing a man-to-man style of defence this season, something the players haven't been used to over the past few years.
"I just paid close attention and made sure I kept my cardio up," said Knowlton. "You just pay attention to the calls, pay attention to your position because there is a lot of new stuff going on."
The 28-year-old import is excited to start his sixth CFL season in front of his fans in the Hammer on Friday.
"You've got win the home games so I'm really excited," said Knowlton. "That's what we need is to start the season off with a W and it's always good when you start with a home game."
Throughout his career Knowlton's been consistent as a dominant linebacker in the CFL. He deserved the accolades he was given last year but Knowlton's career stats are solid throughout, proving that last year he was just playing like himself.
Knowlton picked up more tackles in each of the two previous years than he did in his award-winning 2010 but was able to find his touch turning the ball over last year. He recovered six fumbles and caught three interceptions playing a key role on the most consistent part of Hamilton's defence.
The Tiger-Cats finished last season 9-9, good for second place in the East before losing to the Argonauts in the Eastern semifinal. Knowlton made five tackles in that game.
Along with seven-year CFL veteran Jamall Johnson and newcomer Renauld Williams, Knowlton is a fixture on a linebacking unit that considers itself better than any set of starting linebackers in the league.
"I look up to (Williams) and (Johnson)," said Knowlton of his teammates. "They're good guys and they like to talk. I get a lot of energy from those guys."
On top of cutting through CFL O-lines Knowlton also has a knack for cutting hair off the field. Working towards opening his own barber shop, Knowlton's become the official team barber for the Ticats as well.
"The guys just find it convenient," said Knowlton. "They don't have to drive 20 minutes when I can just cut their hair here."