NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – This Sunday’s AFC Championship game between the Buffalo Bills and Kansas City Chiefs features some Nashville-area ties.
Bills Tight End Dawson Knox and Belmont Basketball’s Tate Pierson are cousins and close competitors.
“I think ever since I was a kid, just anything that involves trying to beat someone else at something, I was a fan of,” said Knox. Pierson replies, “Yeah, lots of times, the beating came down on me as the younger cousin.”
The competitive spirit runs in the family.
“We have family egg tosses on Thanksgiving where my Grandfather pairs up you and another person and even that gets competitive. We see who gets the record, mark it off with chalk and a rope,” said Pierson.
So Grandpa sets the standard with family games, but also when it comes to competitive sports. He played basketball and baseball at Vanderbilt. Pierson’s mom was a collegiate athlete and Knox’s dad played basketball at Belmont. As for the next generation, all five cousins are Division I athletes.
“It was a pretty high standard growing up. My dad would take us to Belmont basketball games and those were the most fun things ever,” remembers Knox of his childhood trips to the Curb Event Center. “One time, I was the kid that got to wipe the sweat off the floor during the breaks. I think having so many people in the family that played high-level sports, it was always kind of around us.”
Pierson follows in his uncle’s footsteps with the Bruins, while Knox stuck with football. There was a brief crossover at Brentwood Academy when the two competed together in basketball. Knox remembers it as his rising eighth-grade cousin getting more minutes than him. Knox is two years older than Pierson. He realized then he should “stick to football.” It worked out as he went to Ole Miss on a scholarship and was later drafted to the Bills in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
“Watching him as my older cousin, looking up to him, watching the way he worked at everything he did. It was such a cool moment to see all that work pay off. Just a proud cousin over here,” said Pierson.
The support is mutual.
“That was the first thing I did last off-season when the season ended. I think my Grandfather actually had like floor tickets (to a Belmont Basketball game) so I got to sit down there on the first row,” said Knox. “I think that was like the second day of me being back in town. It’s just always been super fun to see Tate, see everybody compete like we’ve been doing since we were kids.”
Although he’s dying to get to a Belmont game this year, he wouldn’t mind waiting a couple of weeks. In the meantime, Knox will have plenty of supporters cheering him on.
“I think my family would give Bills Mafia a run for their money. I’ve seen some crazy things here. People jumping off of roofs, breaking tables. I don’t know if my family would go to that length. There might be a few members of the family who would try that, but in terms of loyalty and support, it’s hard to come close to what our family does.”
Knox’s family won’t be jumping through tables on Championship Sunday, but they will be watching — and worrying — from Nashville.
“I think we’re more nervous because we cant do anything about the outcome of the game,” said Pierson. “We’re just so excited to be watching sports. It’s just so fun to know people who are playing and even more so loving these people who are playing.”
In the 2020 season, the Bills won their first AFC East Title since the mid-90s, but on Sunday, they’ll fight for something even bigger – a Conference Championship. Knox’s cousin Tate and his father may have some words of advice for him as the Bruins have won 19 total Conference Titles.