Swedish champion Carlstad Crusaders sign Swedish/French LB Teo Knight

The Carlstad Crusaders have begun the hunt for their ninth straight Swedish championship with the signing of Swedish/French linebacker and defensive end Teo Knight.

The 23 year old, 5’9″, 215 lb Knight was born in Katrineholm, Sweden but moved to France at an early age. He has been one of the leading defensive stars in the French top league playing for the Thonon Black Panthers for the past two seasons. He helped the Black Panthers reach the French final in 2017 and win the European Football League title, defeating Italy’s Milano Rhinos.

In 2016, his first year with Thonon, he led the team in tackles and was the third leading tackler in France. He spent the previous two seasons playing in Canada in both Junior (Montagnais de Chicoutimi) and college (Couguars du Cegep de Chicoutimi). He started playing football in 2009 in the French Junior League with the Sharks de Valence.

Carlstad Club Director Robert Sundberg: 

“Teo has a solid experience despite his 23 years and will fit really well into our physical game style. His versatility gives our defense an extra dimension as he can put play several positions. It will be interesting to see how he develops here with us led by head coach Tracey Gere.”

American Football International asked Teo about his fascinating journey and his return to his roots.

American Football International: You have signed with one of the top teams in Europe after playing with another top European team. Why the switch to Carlstad?

Teo Knight: To get started, the idea of playing in my home country has always been on my mind. A few years back I got introduced to the Swedish team through some players from the Black Panthers for who I played for the last 2 seasons. They told me all about the Crusaders when they played them in the Final Four tournament in Serbia in 2015.

The 2017 season was a great success for the Black Panthers, we triumphed as the EFL Champions and went to the French championship game. After my first season there, I received a few interesting offers from around Europe which I declined with thanks of course, in order to play another year in Thonon-les-Bains.

Despite the success I felt that it was time to move on to something new. So I got in touch with a few teams but I didn’t hesitate very long before coming to an agreement with Karlstad. I knew what a competetive team they were and their ambitions were very appealing.

AFI: You have had an interesting journey. How old were you when you left Sweden?

Knight: I left Sweden at the age of 7 and arrived in the city of Valence in the South of France.

AFI:  When did you first start playing football?

Knight: After a time in France, my family and I moved to the USA for a couple of years. It was after returning to France again after that trip that I was familiarized with the sport and discovered the local US football team where I lived, I was 15 years old.

Teo Knight was a member of the 2017 EFL winning Thonon Black Panthers

AFI:  You played in Quebec. How did you end up there?

Knight: I’d been playing football for a few years. I was doing well with the local team, the Sharks of Valence, both with the Junior and Senior teams. I participated in some scouting weekends for the national team. So, by the age of 19 my good friend/teammate Vincent Begou and I were doing well in football and started looking into the possibilities of playing in Canada, pursuing our dream and the dream of many players in France of playing the game on the American Continent. We had one contact overseas who helped us get in touch with the coaches and that was the beginning of a great adventure.

AFI:  Tell us a little about playing in Canada.

Knight: Vincent and I packed our bags and took off in August 2014. I played the season for the Couguars of the Cegep of Chicoutimi, it was an awesome experience. The year went by and the summer of 2015 was approaching. I got the opportunity to play in the Quebec Senior league during that summer thanks to Stephane Larosiliere. It went great but after the season it was time to head back to France. Shortly after that, I joined the Black Panthers of Thonon-les-Bains.

I took a second trip to Canada in August 2016 after my first year in France. This time to Montreal thanks to Stephane who was coaching a team in the Quebec Junior Major league. He suggested that I join his team during the French offseason. We made it to the Championship Game, great opportunity.

Playing in Canada has been the most enriching part of my football career uptill now. Being far from a lot of things all for the sake of the sport was a special kind of mindset. The way of life is similar to the US and very different from Europe. The culture, the enviromment isn’t the same. It helps you evolve and adapt to where you are. It’s an important ability to have, I believe, helped probably that with my family, we did also move around a bit.

AFI: How is your Swedish?

Knight: I speak the language fluently, my Mum (who’s Swedish) and I only speak Swedish to each other. That was our way to keep the language alive so that I wouldn’t loose it over the years. As was the same with my father with whom I only communicate in English since he’s native from Great Britain.

Teo Knight facing Milano Rhinos in EFL final Photo: Jen’s Lens

AFI:  You played both linebacker and defensive end in France. Where do you feel most comfortable?

Knight: My primary position is Line backer, I’ve occasionally been on the line for some plays. But it’s at the spot of LB that I feel the most comfortable, have the most fun and contribute the most to the team.

AFI:  What are your expectations?

Knight: First of all, I expect a lot from myself, I’m training really hard during this offseason to be as prepared as can be for this new challenge. It’s a change of scenery for me because it’s a new team, in a different country, but it’s still the same game so I’m ready to give my all for the success of the team. I know that the team I’m joining is among the top teams in Europe so I have no doubt that they’re getting ready to enter the season 2018 as well as they finished the previous one.

AFI: What do you bring to the team?

Knight: I think that I can add my piece to the puzzle for the success of this team with my good team spirit, the will to win and playing abilities. The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team!

Check out Teo Knight’s highlights from 2017

Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.