How bad did it get for Mikhail Kniaziewicz, once a fit sports fanatic growing up in a well-to-do Philadelphia suburb who earned a college football roster spot on the strength of his left leg, to end up depressed, lonely, out of shape and overweight, wondering if life was worth living?
“It got to the point that some nights I would sit outside alone, listening to music with the suicide hotline number in my hand, ready to dial. Thankfully, I never got to a point where I felt that I had to call it,” Kniaziewicz says.
For that—and for the amazing turnaround that followed—we need to go back to the very beginning of his journey.
From the Pitch to the Gridiron
“Growing up, I was a very active kid,” Kniaziewicz recalls. He and his older sister were involved in sports as long as he can remember, and he took it seriously. “I guess you could say I was a little trophy hunter growing up, and I spent far more time focusing on sports than I ever did schoolwork. I was just so infatuated with pro athletes, and training and being the absolute best with any sport I was in.”
He figured soccer would be his mainstay, but after excelling in youth leagues, he ended up not making the cut for his high school soccer team as a freshman. Disappointed but undeterred, he took his kicking acumen to the football field instead. It stuck. “I ended up going to Division III King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and played four years there,” he says.