Anyone that follows college football knows winning a National Championship is the granddaddy of them all. For Josh Knutson and the rest of the 1998 Northwest Missouri State University football team, it is a memory they will never forget.
Knutson was a walk on during his first season as a Bearcat in 1996. This was Coach Mel Tjeerdsma’s third year with the program, where in 1994 during his first year as head coach the team ended their season with a 0-11 record.
After Knutson’s first year with the team, he returned on scholarship playing nose guard on the defensive live. Knutson played three seasons for Coach Tjeerdsma, with his senior year going undefeated with a record of 15-0 and gaining a National Championship in Division II under their belt in 1998.
To date, NWMSU holds the winningest record since 1996 in all divisions of college football including Division I schools like Alabama and Ohio State. With a record of 263-38, Coach Tjeerdsma turned around the university’s football program in a positive way.
In 2005, Knutson was honored with his induction into the NWMSU’s Hall of Fame. Along with that prestigious award, Knutson was also inducted alongside the 1998 National Championship team to the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in November of 2017.
Knutson originally from South Dakota majored in Horticulture and Agronomy while attending NWMSU.
While in college, Knutson’s then girlfriend and now wife Kristy attended Iowa State University.
“I drove up and down Hwy 2 and through Iowa to visit her and I thought man I want to live here someday,” said Knutson.
Once Knutson graduated, he lived for a short time in Indianola before moving to Minnesota. In 2014, Knutson and his family made the move to Wayne County where he took over Pioneer Seeds for Randy Rouse, and now owns Destination Ag in Millerton.
“This part of Iowa is a lot like South Dakota and the people here are really nice,” said Knutson of his move to the area. “People here would do anything for you, and my customers are truly great people that would do anything for me if I needed it.”
After his move to Wayne County, Scott Valentine who was then Wayne Falcon Athletic Director, urged Knutson to get his coaching certificate to help out with the Falcon Football Program. In summer of 2015 Knutson acquired his coaching certificate, looking to help out the program.
“Head Coach Bart Elliott brought me in and said he wanted me to help coach,” said Knutson. “I joined when Wayne was playing 8-man football as an assistant coach, to work with the defensive and offensive lines.”
When asked whether he preferred 8-man or 11-man football as Wayne is back this season to 11-man, it was an easy answer for Knutson, “Absolutely I’d rather play 11-man football. You can score a lot and do well with a couple good players on an 8-man team but with 11-man it takes 11 guys to be successful.”
Knutson and wife Kristy have three daughters, Keylee, Morgan and Courtney, all of which attend Wayne Community School.
“I have three daughters, so I don’t have any of my own kids out there I’m coaching,” Knutson said of his love of the game. “I’m coaching football because I love football.”
“It’s also addicting as I coach,” Knutson added. “At first I didn’t know how long I would do this, then I’d see a younger kid playing and I’d think, I want to see him as a senior. Then the next younger kid comes up and I’m thinking the same thing. I want to see them develop and succeed. It’s addicting.”
Knutson also wants these players to realize this is their time, “I try to make kids understand once you’re done playing, you will never put pads on again. Sure basketball and baseball are sports you can pick up a ball and play as you get older, but once you play your final football game, you will never play again.”
As the 5-3 Falcons prepare for the final football game of the season coming up Friday, Oct. 19 against Central Decatur, Knutson hopes to end the season with a 6-3 record.
“Our new Head Coach Jeff Whitehall, came in this season and he knows football,” said Knutson. “He came here from Texas where football is above all, and our boys have improved so much the last three weeks we have played. You take away a few final minute plays from games we lost, and our record changes.”