To cap off his high school football career, Cochrane Cobra Tom Knitter appeared in the 2008 Senior Bowl all-star game that annually pits the best players in southern Alberta against their North rivals.
In this year's 30th annual game, he's suiting up again, only this time he'll be on the sideline as a defensive back coach.
Knitter who returned to teach at Cochrane High three years ago and joined their football program's coaching staff two years ago, will get a rare second perspective of the game and is thrilled to get the opportunity.
"Being a younger coach is a little bit of a challenge," says Knitter, who is 29. "I know these people because they have coached me or coached against me in the past. So it's a little bit of a unique situation when I get to go see them and all of a sudden we're sharing the same coaching staff."
Age, though, isn't a barrier.
"One of the thing that's consistent is when you come from a program like Cochrane High School, a program that has repeated success, there's a lot of mutual respect in the building and that was evident at Senior Bowl."
"We're excited to learn from programs like Notre Dame and programs like Medicine Hat and I'm sure that those coaches are hoping to learn something from Cochrane High as well."
Knitter is proud of his roots in the Cochrane football community. He started in atoms with the Cochrane Lions and won two provincial championship rings with the Cobras. He played for the Calgary Colts when a guy name Rob McNab was on the coaching staff, then wore #48 for the U of C Dinos as a defensive back in the 2011-2013 seasons and appeared in the 2013 Vanier Cup.
The very next season he joined the Dinos coaching staff, first an offensive assistant, then worked with defensive backs and capped it off in 2016 as a special teams coordinator. Besides his current coaching duties with the Cobras, he provides training at elite football coaching clinics.
"I've come through the Cochrane program. It's been fantastic to see coaches that coached me a long time ago, guys like Paul Vaillancourt, that are still out there and still giving back to the community. I owe a lot of my success to the grassroots programs here in Cochrane that are fantastic and continue to do a great job of providing football for players."
Knitter isn't the only Cobra connection to this year's game. Football Alberta has announced two Cobras will be suiting up for the South team, following last weekend's the final selection camp.
Receiver Dylan Neis, who recently signed with the Dinos, and defensive back Joseph Bell will continue the tradition of Cochrane being represented on the field. The game is being held on May 20 at Calgary's Hellard Field, following a three-day prep camp.
Knitter speaks highly of the two players making the team and believes they will be impact players in the game. He equally believes the other Cobras attending also had great camps, but it was a tough field of 130 players competing for only 42 spots.
As a defender, Bell excels at reading quarterbacks, has speed and brings physical play, says Knitter.
"In the scrimmage, he was in the top eight. He had a great camp."
Neis continues to be an elusive receiver.
"Watching him, he is an elite route runner and he has fantastic vision with the ball. I think he's going to be an impact player throughout the Senior Bowl."
There's much preparation to be made for the game for the coaching staff in developing the playbook and game plan. In the meantime, Knitter will also be helping out at the Bantam Bowl selection camp this weekend.
The North Team roster for the Senior Bowl will be selected this weekend in Edmonton.