Huskies believe they may have landed a great Dane

Andreas Knappe began playing American football in Denmark just a

few years ago when he literally outgrew team handball – the Olympic

sport that looks like a cross between basketball and soccer.

”Basically, I was getting a little too physical for the game,

not playing dirty or anything like that,” said Knappe, who this

week became a 6-foot-9, 300 pound lineman for Connecticut. ”The

people at my age, they were not that big, so it looked more violent

than it was.”

Knappe, who had been watching the NFL on television, heard there

was a local club team in his home town of Silkeborg, Denmark. He

decided to give the sport a try.

”I went, I had one practice and I was hooked,” he said.

”Since then, I’ve just been loving playing football.”

Knappe, now 21, attended some camps in the U.S. last summer

after graduating from high school, and that led to interest from

schools such as Connecticut. The Dane said UConn impressed him with

its facilities and coaches. Coach Paul Pasqualoni said Knappe

impressed them with his size and maturity.

”First of all, he passed the look test,” Pasqualoni said

Friday, during the team’s annual media day. ”Then, about a minute

into the conversation, you realize you’re talking to a 21-year-old

man. You’re not dealing with some wide-eyed 17-year-old high school

kid who is trying to make a decision about what school he’s going

to go to.”

Knappe finished his European season in mid-July and arrived in

Connecticut this week, after 30 hours of travelling.

He has had just three practices with the team, which opens its

season against UMass on Aug. 30, and will join the team in full

pads next week.

But Pasqualoni said there are no plans to redshirt Knappe. He

hopes the Dane can add some depth to an interior defensive line

that lost starters Kendall Reyes and Twyon Martin to

graduation.

He also noted that Knappe’s size could make him an ideal

candidate to eventually switch to offense and become a left

tackle.

”We’ll wait and see what kind of progress he makes,”

Pasqualoni said. ”Because he’s 21 years old, and a physically

mature kid, if he’s not ready to play in the first game, my plan is

to keep the development part of this going to see if maybe in

another week he’ll be ready, or in another week he’ll be

ready.”

Knappe said he’s anxious to see how he handles the speed of the

game in the U.S. and matches up with guys who have been playing

football all their lives. His dream is to follow Morton Anderson

and become the second Dane ever in the NFL.

For now, though, he’s just happy to have access to the

facilities and coaches at UConn, not to mention free shoulder pads

and cleats.

”You’ve got to understand, where I come from you have to pay

for everything,” he said. ”Turf is non-existent; the grass fields

are really bumpy. It’s a whole other world here.”