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Broncos DT Terrance ‘Pot Roast’ Knighton is enjoying prime time

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Updated: March 3, 2014 5:47PM

NEW YORK — Even Regis Philbin wanted a piece of ‘‘Pot Roast’’ this week.

‘‘I need a nickname. C’mon, Pot Roast, come up with something,’’ Philbin, representing Fox Sports, pleaded with Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton at Super Bowl Media Day this week at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. ‘‘I’ll take anything — Leg o’ lamb. Prime Rib. Whatever you got.’’

‘‘Uh, let me see,’’ Knight said. ‘‘You put me on the spot.’’

Then, after a pause. ‘‘Filet,’’ Knighton said.

‘‘Filet! That’s the man,’’ Philbin responded. ‘‘Good luck to you.’’

While Peyton Manning and Richard Sherman have been the stars of the media buildup to Super Bowl XLVIII, no player embraced the moment as well as Knighton, the Broncos’ 6-3, 335-pound defensive tackle who suddenly is in the right place at the right time after playing his first four NFL seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With the funny nickname and two big games in the playoffs — including a fourth-down sack of Tom Brady in the AFC Championship Game, Knighton is getting more attention than ever this week.

‘‘The most [attention] I’ve ever had,’’ he said. ‘‘So many media requests on the phone, interviews and appearances. I’m just relishing the moment.’’

The ‘‘Pot Roast’‘ nickname has taken on a life of its own. Knighton recited the story of how he acquired the nickname several times this week: ‘‘A six-hour flight [from Seattle as a rookie with the Jaguars in 2009]. The plane is dark and the lady is walking down the aisle saying, ‘pot roast? pot roast?’ And I’m like [raising his arm], ‘Right here.’ My teammate [Clint Ingram] behind me was like, ‘You’re saying that like that’s your name. I’m going to call you ‘Pot Roast.’ And it stuck with me. It was either that or shrimp alfredo, so I’m glad I got pot roast.’’

The good-natured Knighton is having a ball with it. Last week he took the entire defensive to a restaurant in downtown Denver for a pot roast meal — truth be told it was only the second time he’s ever had it. He said if he gets a sack in the game, he has a pot-roast related sack dance prepared.

‘‘Hopefully if we win the Super Bowl, maybe I can get a Chunky Soup commercial,’’ Knighton said. ‘‘There’s a lot of things you can do with pot roast. Whatever it is, I’ll enjoy it.’’

On the field and off, Knighton is one of the biggest success stories of this year’s Super Bowl. A year ago at Jacksonville, he was benched by defensive coordinator Mel Tucker after four games — a tough break for a player on a contract season.

‘‘That was the lowest point of my career,’’ Knighton said. ‘‘I don’t know why [I was benched]. I didn’t get a reason why. I didn’t feel like it was [warranted]. But it’s funny how things work.’’

His market value depressed, Knighton signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Broncos, reuniting with former Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, the Broncos’ defensive coordinatory. It was one of the steals of last year’s free-agent market.

‘‘I had an opportunity to rejuvenate my career,’’ Knighton said. ‘‘I’m just glad I had the opportunity.’’

Knighton was even better than expected this season. He was the Broncos’ second-highest rated defensive player by Pro Football Focus and ranked ninth among all NFL defensive tackles (plus-24.1). And he has played his best later in the season, after starting defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson suffered a season-ending dislocated hip against the Patriots in Week 12. Sylvester Williams replaced him.

‘‘Terrance really responded when we needed him most,’’ Del Rio said. ‘‘After Vickerson [was injured] Sly had to play more and it became, ‘Look, we really need you to step up and not just play well. We need you to step up and lead, help Sly be comfortable next you, talk to him. He’s really taken that and run with it. He’s played well and done more things behind the scenes ... in terms of leadership.’’

Despite a tough final season in Jacksonville, Knighton said he enjoyed playing for Tucker.

‘‘I loved it,’’ he said. ‘‘Just our relationship off the field, too. he finds the right balance between coach and leader. He’ll talk to you about real-life problems and about football. He’s the same guy every day and players respect that.’’

Knighton said he still keeps in touch with Tucker. In fact, even his mom still keeps in touch with the Bears’ defensive coordinator.

‘‘I talk to him when I can,’’ Knighton said. ‘‘You keep the good relationships you have in the NFL.’’

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