Joe McKnight’s time in Shreveport was brief, but his talent, personality and bond with the Evangel Christian Academy made Northwest Louisiana a special place for a very special athlete.
McKnight, a former star at John Curtis High School, evacuated to Shreveport following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He played at Evangel for three weeks. It didn’t take one minute for Eagles head coach Dennis Dunn to take notice.
“At that time, he was the best athlete to ever walk on our campus,” said Dunn, who groomed a litany of Division-I and NFL products while at Evangel. “He was special. We had seen some special players, but he was the most dynamic, explosive guy.”
Thursday, McKnight, a standout at USC who played four years in the NFL, was killed at 28 following an apparent road-rage shooting near New Orleans.
Everybody in the world wanted to be @ReggieBush , us in New Orleans wanted to run the ball like Joe McKnight.—
Tyrann Mathieu (@Mathieu_Era) December 01, 2016
Dunn will cherish the fond memories his time with McKnight.
“He was a very special young man – personable,” Dunn said. “He made himself a part of the fabric and family; very humble. He didn’t come in and in anyway try to say, ‘I’m Joe McKnight, move out of my way.’”
According to Dunn, McKnight wasn’t itching to return to South Louisiana.
“He wanted to stay,” Dunn said. “(John Curtis head coach) J.T. (Curtis) had a coach up here trailing him the whole time. I’m convinced they kidnapped him and took him home.”
However, McKnight, born in Kenner, wasn’t finished with Shreveport.
With the Louisiana Superdome out of commission, Independence Stadium played host to all the state football championship games that year.
John Curtis made the trek north for the Class 2A title matchup against St. Charles.
McKnight, then a junior, rattled off three dazzling touchdowns — a 55-yard punt return and runs of 35 and 58 yards – as the Patriots won their 20th state championship. McKnight added 120 yards rushing and an interception en route to being honored as the Patriots’ Most Outstanding Player of the Game.
Evangel won the Class A championship the same day.
“He was hanging out with our guys, came into the locker room. He felt like he was a part of your guys and our guys felt like they were a part of them,” Dunn said. “The three-week relationship lasted his entire career.”
The 5-foot-11, 205 pound running back left USC one year early and was a fourth-round pick of the New York Jets in the 2010 NFL Draft. He spent three seasons with the Jets (2010-12) and one with the Kansas City Chiefs (2014).
Two of his four NFL touchdowns came on kick return. He took one back 107 yards for the Jets in 2011.
This year, McKnight spent time with Edmonton and Saskatchewan in the Canadian Football League. He played his last game less than one month ago (Nov. 5).