Terrance Knighton pulls down Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the AFC championship game. Knighton is from Hartford, Conn., and family members are big Patriots fans. (Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images)
Jersey City, N.J. — You know it’s a funny story when you’ve told it a hundred times —in less than two days — and it still gets laughs.
Broncos defensive tackle Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton good-naturedly told and retold the story of how he came about his nickname during his news conference Monday — and it doesn’t have all that much to do with his 6-foot-3, 335-pound frame.
“Coincidentally, it happened after a Seattle game when I was there with Jacksonville,” he said. “It keeps coming up now, and we’re playing Seattle again.”
It’s coming up because Knighton has become a dominant presence in a vastly-improved Broncos defense. He used to be known mostly as that underachieving guy the Jaguars gave up on.
Now, people want to know what this “Pot Roast” stuff all about.
It happened on the Jags’ flight home where there were two in-flight food choices — pot roast and shrimp Alfredo.
“It was dark on the plane, and everyone was sleeping,” Knighton said. “The stewardess was saying ‘Pot roast, pot roast’ and I raised my hand, as if that was my name.
“The guy behind me was like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to start calling you Pot Roast and I’m like ‘Yeah whatever.’ It’s stuck with me.”
“I’m just glad I ordered that instead of shrimp Alfredo,” he said.
The teammate who tagged him was Clint Ingram — who Knighton called the biggest comedian he’d ever played with.
“From day one, I thought it’d be something to laugh about for the week,” he said. “But it’s five years later and we’re still talking about pot roast.”
Knighton grew up in Hartford, Conn., and his family remains big Patriots fans.
But Knighton said things are OK back home even though his Broncos eliminated the Patriots.
“The only thing they were saying was, ‘Just don’t hurt (Tom) Brady,’ ” he said. “That’s all they kept saying to me. So that happened and we won and I’m in the Super Bowl. They were just worried about Tom Brady’s longevity.”
Normally a player talking to his mother and grandmother during Super Bowl week is a fairly routine thing — not so for Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas.
His mother, Katina Smith, is serving 20 years at the Federal Correctional Institute in Tallahassee, Fla., for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. His grandmother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, is serving two life sentences.
Both were arrested in the same bust in 1999 — when Demaryius was 9. Both called him this week and Thomas expects to hear from them again before the game Sunday.
“It was just happy,” Thomas said of the talk. “My momma, she just told me, ‘I told you you would make it.’ We haven’t really talked about it much but I talked to my grandma and she said the same thing.
“She got emotional and all, but they just said, ‘You were going to make it.’ They get to watch every game that comes on TV there and they’ve got the T-shirts. All of the ladies have the T-shirts and watch me, so that’s special.”
After bouncing around for a while, Thomas wound up being raised by his uncle, James Brown, a Baptist minister in Georgia.
“You never know,” Thomas said. “One day you can be here and the next day you’ll be gone. So I take every day like it’s my last, I play every football game like it’s my last. I was brought up a Christian, I was raised around great people.
“They drive me more to know that they’re there and they’re watching me. I try to go out there and play my best because they’re going to talk about it to the people in the jailhouse.”
Of the two teams, Seattle is by far the least experienced in terms of Super Bowl exposure. And coach Pete Carroll admitted concern his players might feel content with just getting onto this stage.
“That’s an issue that you deal with,” he said. “They feel like, ‘OK, we’ve got here, and that’s all we needed to get done,’ — just a sense of relief that you’ve arrived here.”
Carroll, though, believes though is team is young, they have what he called a “mature perspective” on what it takes to play at their maximum efficiency.
“We’ve never talked like all we wanted to do was get here,” he said. “We’ve never talked about just getting a ring or getting to the Super Bowl. That’s never been our conversation. We’ve never even talked about getting to the Super Bowl, to tell you the truth.
“We talk about playing well, week in and week out. There’s a mentality that goes along with that which should keep us on track. I’m counting on it.”