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Joseph Nathan McKnight Jr. (April 16, 1988 – December 1, 2016) was an American football running back and return specialist who played in the National Football League (NFL) and Canadian Football League (CFL).

Joe McKnight
refer to caption
McKnight with the Jets in 2011
No. 25, 30, 22, 33
Position:Running back
Personal information
Born:(1988-04-16)April 16, 1988
Kenner, Louisiana
Died:December 1, 2016(2016-12-01) (aged 28)
Terrytown, Louisiana
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
High school:John Curtis Christian
(River Ridge, Louisiana)
NFL Draft:2010 / Round: 4 / Pick: 112
Career history
Career NFL statistics
Rushing yards:505
Rushing average:4.5
Receiving yards:241
Return yards:2,339
Total touchdowns:4
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR

He attended the University of Southern California (USC), where he played college football for the USC Trojans. McKnight was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the New York Jets. After playing in the NFL for the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, he played in the CFL for the Edmonton Eskimos and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

On December 1, 2016, McKnight was killed in an apparent road rage incident.[1]


High school careerEdit

McKnight attended John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, Louisiana. For his first years of high school, McKnight played defense as a cornerback; his high school career was complicated by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated his part of Louisiana just before his junior season of 2005.[2] Separated from his mother, who had evacuated to Baton Rouge, McKnight temporarily relocated to Shreveport where he eventually enrolled and played two games for Evangel Christian Academy.[2] His family was able to relocate back to River Ridge, but their home had been destroyed so they moved into a one-bedroom apartment.[2]

For the rest of the shortened 2005 season, McKnight scored 22 touchdowns (nine rushing, five receiving, four punt returns, three interceptions, one kickoff return) and averaged 18 yards a play in leading his team to the state championship.[2] In 2006, McKnight rushed for 719 yards on 45 carries, scoring 14 touchdowns, had 24 catches for 735 yards and 13 touchdowns, and with special teams play scored a total of 30 touchdowns as a senior; he was instrumental in John Curtis Christian's 14-0 season, often used as a decoy player due to his scoring threat.[2]

McKnight was the latest of a line of running back prospects out of John Curtis Christian HS – among them Reggie Dupard, Chris Howard and Jonathan Wells. Most recruiting analysts ranked him as one of the top two of the 2007 high school class (next to quarterback Jimmy Clausen of Oaks Christian High School). Considered a five-star recruit, on January 28, 2007, McKnight was named co-Player of the Year by Parade, sharing the honor with Clausen.[3] ranked McKnight the best running back prospect in the U.S.,[4] and the second best recruit overall.[5]

USC assigned linebackers coach and former NFL All-Pro Ken Norton Jr. to handle the recruitment of McKnight.[2] Louisiana State University (LSU) coach Les Miles visited McKnight on February 1, 2007, the last possible date before National Signing Day, in order to ensure McKnight's commitment to LSU. However, on February 7 McKnight committed to USC. At USC, McKnight was joined by second-ranked running back prospect Marc Tyler.[4] The backlash against McKnight's decision to attend college out of state manifested itself when the Curtis School's marching band was booed performing at a Mardi Gras parade.[2]

McKnight stated that his interest in USC came from its football tradition, notably their Heisman Trophies, and his interest in sports broadcasting, noting the USC Annenberg School for Communication.[2]

Recruiting controversyEdit

McKnight told reporters on National Signing Day that he spoke to former USC running back Reggie Bush before he chose Southern California over favored LSU. On February 9, the Los Angeles Times reported that USC officials were investigating whether an NCAA recruiting violation occurred during the Trojans' pursuit of the Louisiana prep star. At issue was whether McKnight listened to a phone call between head coach Pete Carroll and Bush.[6] NCAA rules state that alumni cannot speak to players and attempt to persuade them to join their former school.[6]

McKnight and his high school coach, J.T. Curtis, both later claimed that McKnight misspoke during the news conference and that McKnight had never actually met or spoken to Bush.[7] Bush and Carroll denied that a conference call ever took place. Carroll blamed the controversy surrounding McKnight on LSU fans who were unhappy that McKnight chose to leave the state of Louisiana and attend USC.[8]

US college sports recruiting information for high school athletes
Name Hometown High school / college Height Weight 40 Commit date
Joe McKnight
Running back
River Ridge, Louisiana John Curtis Christian High School 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) 193 lb (88 kg) 4.4 Jan 19, 2007 
Recruiting star ratings: Scout:    Rivals:    247SportsN/A
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 1 (RB, S)   Rivals: 2, 1 (RB), 1 (LS)
  • ‡ Refers to 40 yard dash
  • Note: In many cases, Scout, Rivals, 247Sports, and ESPN may conflict in their listings of height, weight and 40 time.
  • In these cases, the average was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.


  • "2007 USC Football Commitment List". Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  • "2007 USC Football Recruiting Commits". Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  • " Team Recruiting Rankings". Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  • "2007 Team Ranking". Retrieved December 2, 2016.

College careerEdit

McKnight (no. 4) takes the handoff from Matt Barkley during an October 2009 matchup against California.

Because of his talent and versatility, the media and opposing coaches called McKnight the "next Reggie Bush".[2] McKnight began college at the University of Southern California in June 2007.[2] He was awarded with the inaugural Frank Gifford Endowed Football Scholarship, which is given out annually by the USC athletic department to an incoming freshman running back, quarterback or wide receiver who best emulates Gifford's life, success and spirit.[9] By the pre-season practice before his freshman season at USC, McKnight had already demonstrated some of the speed and moves that made him an impact player in high school.[10][11]

After a slow start during his freshman season, dealing with fumble issues for the first time in his career, he made a pivotal contribution in a victory against Arizona, where he ran a punt return for 45 yards, and later ran for 59 yards to set USC up for their last 10 points in their game.[12]

McKnight achieved a break-through at the end of his freshman season during the 2008 Rose Bowl, where he had 206 all-purpose yards: 36 on three punt returns, 45 on six pass receptions and 125 in 10 carries with one touchdown.[13][14][15]

During his freshman season, McKnight painted "I need $" under his eye blacks to signify his desire to play professional football in the NFL.[16]

Before his sophomore season, McKnight was included in Sports Illustrated's spring list of top ten Heisman Trophy contenders going into the fall.[17] However, his sophomore season was hampered early on by medical conditions, fumbles and injuries, including a nagging metatarsalphalangeal joint sprain that prevented him from playing in two games.[18][19][20] In February 2009, Bobby Burton of summed up his career by writing, "McKnight really hasn't lived up to the hype. He's good, but he just hasn't broken out to show he's the best back in his class".[21]

McKnight after a fall practice in August 2008 during his tenure at USC.

In his junior and final college football season, it was reported that McKnight was granted free use of a 2006 Land Rover SUV registered to Santa Monica businessman Scott Schenter, in violation of NCAA rules.[22] Schenter responded, claiming that the SUV actually belonged to McKnight's girlfriend, Johana Michelle Beltran, although McKnight had reportedly been seen driving it around town.[23] As a result of the pending investigation, the USC compliance department did not clear McKnight to play in the 2009 Emerald Bowl.[24]

On January 8, 2010, McKnight declared his intention to forgo his final year of eligibility, hired an agent and entered the 2010 NFL Draft.[25]

Professional careerEdit

2010 NFL CombineEdit

Pre-draft measurables
Ht Wt 40-yard dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert jump Broad BP
6 ft 0 in
(1.83 m)
198 lb
(90 kg)
4.40 s 1.53 s 2.52 s 4.48 s 7.12 s 36.5 in
(0.93 m)
10 ft 0 in
(3.05 m)
18 reps
All values from NFL Combine

New York JetsEdit


McKnight was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round (112th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.[26] To select McKnight, the Jets traded up twelve spots in the fourth round with the Carolina Panthers. In return, the Jets sent their fourth (124th overall) and sixth (198th overall) round selections to Carolina.[26] McKnight formally signed with the Jets on June 22, 2010.[27]

McKnight struggled in the early stages of his professional career, vomiting during the Jets' rookie minicamp in May 2010.[28] McKnight later admitted he had not been in proper condition at the time.[28] He continued to struggle into the preseason, fumbling the football three times.[28] Though he was not in danger of being released from the team, it was maintained that McKnight would not appear on the active roster until the coaches felt more confident in his abilities.[28] McKnight made his NFL debut on October 3, 2010, against the Buffalo Bills and was used in a limited capacity on offense before being utilized as an emergency cornerback and on special teams over the course of the season.[29][30] In McKnight's first game as the starting running back, against the Bills during the Jets' final regular season contest, McKnight ran for 158 yards on 32 carries with no fumbles and caught two passes for 15 yards.[31]


During the Jets' 2011 home opener against the Dallas Cowboys on September 11, 2011, McKnight blocked Matt McBriar's punt on a critical play resulting in a touchdown by fellow defender Isaiah Trufant. The Jets went on to defeat the Cowboys 27–24.[32] During the Jets' Sunday night game against the Baltimore Ravens, on October 2, 2011, McKnight returned a kickoff for 107 yards, his first career touchdown. It was the longest play in Jets history.[33] On January 16, 2012, McKnight was named as the Kick Returner for All-Pro team By Pro Football Weekly / Pro Football Writers Association.[34]


McKnight takes a pitch play from Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

On September 26, 2012, Jets head coach Rex Ryan announced that McKnight would see an increase in defensive snaps at cornerback. The announcement was prompted after Darrelle Revis suffered a season-ending ACL tear.[35] Shortly after the announcement was made, McKnight was switched back to his former role as a running back. On October 8, 2012, McKnight returned a 100-yard kickoff for a touchdown against the Houston Texans, recording his second career touchdown.[36] Elias Sports Bureau reported that McKnight had extended the Jets' NFL record of most consecutive years with a kickoff return for a touchdown to 11 years.[37]

He was released by the Jets on August 26, 2013.[38]

Kansas City ChiefsEdit

After spending the entire 2013 year out of football, McKnight signed with the Kansas City Chiefs on January 12, 2014.[39] On July 21, McKnight was placed on the Physically Unable to Perform list.[40] On September 21, 2014, in a game against the Miami Dolphins, he scored two times on receptions from Alex Smith. McKnight suffered a torn Achilles tendon during practice on September 26, 2014, and was ruled out for the rest of the 2014 season.[41]

Canadian Football LeagueEdit

On February 19, 2016, McKnight signed with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League (CFL).[42] but was released on August 10, 2016.[43][44] The Saskatchewan Roughriders acquired McKnight on September 20, 2016.[45] On October 15, 2016, making his first career CFL start, McKnight rushed for 150 yards on 17 carries. He also had one reception for 3 yards.[46] McKnight appeared in three games for the Roughriders in 2016, running for 228 yards in 38 attempts and catching 11 passes. McKnight was under contract to the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the 2017 season.[47]


On December 1, 2016, McKnight was fatally shot by 54-year-old Ronald Gasser at an intersection in Terrytown, Louisiana, in what was described as a road rage shooting.

McKnight exited his vehicle and approached Gasser's car when he was shot by Gasser who was still in his own vehicle. An initial media report based on an alleged eyewitness claimed that after firing the initial shot, Gasser stood over McKnight and said "I told you not to fuck with me" after which, he fired another shot.[48] However, this scenario was disputed by Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, which stated that forensic evidence suggested Gasser fired the shots in quick succession from within his car.[49] McKnight was reportedly unarmed. Gasser remained at the scene and turned in his gun to police.

The Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office took Gasser into custody for questioning, and released him without pressing charges while the investigation continued.[50][51] Gasser was arrested for manslaughter on December 5, 2016, but was indicted by a grand jury on the more severe charge of second degree murder on February 2, 2017.[52][53] On January 26, 2018, Gasser was found guilty of manslaughter.[54][55] He was sentenced to 30 years in prison on March 15, 2018.[56]

Awards and honorsEdit


  1. ^ Hill, Tim (December 2, 2016). "Joe McKnight: suspect who killed ex-NFL player released without charge". the Guardian. Retrieved March 15, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Dufresne, Chris (May 20, 2007). "Star recruit has folks upset back home". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "McKnight splits top honor on Parade list". The Advocate. January 29, 2007.
  4. ^ a b running backs 2007,
  5. ^ Rivals100 2007,
  6. ^ a b Klein, Gary (February 9, 2007). "USC looks into potential recruiting violation". Los Angeles Times.
  7. ^ Bumgarner, Bill (February 10, 2007). "Curtis coach says Bush didn't call McKnight". The Times-Picayune.
  8. ^ "Carroll blames LSU fans for recruiting flap". February 10, 2007.
  9. ^ "Frank Gifford Endowed Football Scholarship Established At USC". USC Trojans. February 28, 2007.
  10. ^ Klein, Gary (August 15, 2007). "McKnight is finding his way". Los Angeles Times.
  11. ^ Markazi, Arash (August 14, 2007). "Postcard from camp: USC". Sports Illustrated.
  12. ^ "McKnight sparks No. 7 Southern Cal past Arizona". USA Today. October 13, 2007.
  13. ^ Hiserman, Mike (January 2, 2008). "McKnight looks simply 'Reggie-ish'". Los Angeles Times.
  14. ^ Feldman, Bruce (January 2, 2008). "Hyped freshman shows signs of being USC's next big star". ESPN the Magazine.
  15. ^ Moore, David Leon (January 2, 2008). "McKnight gives glimpse of future in USC's Rose Bowl win". USA Today.
  16. ^ Markazi, Arash (January 2, 2008). "Plague of allegiance". Sports Illustrated.
  17. ^ Menez, Gene (May 1, 2008). "Ohio State's Wells is the man to beat in the 2008 campaign". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 5, 2008.
  18. ^ Adam Rose, Which Itch is Which?, Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2008, Accessed November 20, 2008.
  19. ^ Gary Klein, Joe McKnight injures hand in dorm accident, Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2008, Accessed November 20, 2008.
  20. ^ Gary Klein, A tough season for Joe McKnight, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2008, Accessed November 20, 2008.
  21. ^ "Past vs. Present: Look back at the best". Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  22. ^ Gary Klein; Lance Pugmire (December 19, 2009). "USC investigating tailback Joe McKnight's use of vehicle". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  23. ^ "McKnight's Girlfriend Owns SUV". ESPN. December 20, 2009. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  24. ^ Markazi, Arash (December 26, 2009). "McKnight sits out Emerald Bowl". ESPN. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  25. ^ Schad, Joe (January 8, 2010). "McKnight leaving USC for draft". ESPN. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  26. ^ a b Cimini, Rich (April 25, 2010). "Jets trade up to get USC's McKnight". ESPN. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  27. ^ Cimini, Rich (June 22, 2010). "Ex-USC RB McKnight signs with Jets". ESPN. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  28. ^ a b c d Vrentas, Jenny; Colin Stephenson (September 3, 2010). "Jets lose confidence in rookie running back Joe McKnight". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  29. ^ Vrentas, Jenny (October 3, 2010). "Jets rookie Joe McKnight active for first career game vs. Bills". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  30. ^ Jets Public Relations Department (December 10, 2010). "Rex's Friday News Conference". New York Jets. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved December 12, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  31. ^ Orr, Conor (January 3, 2011). "Jets running back Joe McKnight 'earned his way out of' doghouse with performance against Bills". The Star-Ledger. Archived from the original on January 3, 2011. Retrieved January 3, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  32. ^ Bondy, Flip (September 16, 2011). "NY Jets, Rex Ryan have an advantage on special teams with coach Mike Westhoff pulling the strings". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on October 18, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  33. ^ LeRay, Andrew (October 3, 2011). "M(cKnight) & M(aybin) Provide Some Highlights". New York Jets. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved October 4, 2011. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  34. ^ "NFL football news, rumors, analysis". Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  35. ^ Mehta, Manish (September 26, 2012). "Jets running back Joe McKnight will play more cornerback to help fill the void left by Darrelle Revis' season-ending knee injury". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  36. ^ McManus, Jane (October 9, 2012). "McKnight scores TD on kickoff return". ESPN New York. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  37. ^ "Elias Says..." ESPN. October 9, 2012. Archived from the original on June 7, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  38. ^ Jets Staff (August 26, 2013). "Jets Release 14 Players". New York Jets. Archived from the original on August 26, 2013. Retrieved August 26, 2013. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  39. ^ Wilson, Aaron. "Chiefs sign Joe McKnight, Jerron McMillian". Retrieved April 21, 2014.
  40. ^ "Chiefs place Joe McKnight on PUP list".
  41. ^ Patra, Kevin (September 26, 2014). "Chiefs' Joe McKnight tears Achilles, out for season". Retrieved September 27, 2014.
  42. ^ MacMillan, Dale (February 19, 2016). "Eskimos Add Two on Offence". Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  43. ^ "Esks Release Two". August 10, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2018.
  44. ^ "Checking Down: A change at kicker, the return of Zach and more in Week 8". August 10, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  45. ^ "Checking Down: Injury bug bites Ticats in Week 14". September 21, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  46. ^ "2016-10-15 Game Tracker - Saskatchewan Roughriders vs. Toronto Argonauts (2343) -". Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  47. ^ "Joe McKnight: #33 Running Back". Canadian Football League. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  48. ^ "Joe McKnight, former NFL player, killed in Terrytown shooting". December 1, 2016. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  49. ^ "Ronald Gasser did not stand over Joe McKnight when he shot him, JPSO, coroner say". Retrieved December 3, 2016.
  50. ^ Bullington, Jonathan (December 2, 2016). "Joe McKnight's killer, Ronald Gasser, released from custody". The Times-Picayne. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  51. ^ "Joe McKnight's killer walks free, but he's not in the clear yet". NY Daily News. Retrieved December 2, 2016.
  52. ^ Becker, Jane (February 2, 2017). "Joe McKnight's road rage killer indicted on murder charge". NY Daily News. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  53. ^ Victor, Daniel (February 2, 2017). "After Outcry, Murder Charge Filed in Death of Former N.F.L. Player Joe McKnight". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 3, 2017.
  54. ^ Calder, Chad (January 27, 2018). "Ronald Gasser found guilty of manslaughter for fatally shooting Joe McKnight". The New Orleans Advocate. ISSN 2379-0008. Retrieved January 27, 2018.
  55. ^ "Man found guilty of manslaughter in death of Joe McKnight". NFL. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  56. ^ "Man given 30 years in prison for shooting dead former NFL player Joe McKnight". The Guardian. March 15, 2018. Retrieved October 7, 2018.
  57. ^ "McKnight, Carter and Forbath Named Pac-10 Football Players of the Week" at Pac-10 official website (accessed May 13, 2010).
  58. ^ Ryan Chatelain, "John Curtis' Joe McKnight is The Times-Picayune's Male High School Athlete of the Decade". Times-Picayune, December 27, 2009.
  59. ^ Lange, Randy (December 1, 2016). "Ex-Jet Joe McKnight Killed in Louisiana". New York Jets. Retrieved December 2, 2016.

External linksEdit