J.T. Curtis: It's like losing a family member

Jade Cunningham talks to Joe Mcknight's high school coach about his former player being shot to death in Terrytown.

Can you tell us a little bit about how you found out what happened today?

Well, my wife and I were coming back from an appointment, and I got a phone call, and they said, ‘Did you hear about Joe McKnight?’ and I said no, what? They said he was killed today. And I said, no it’s got to be a different Joe. Obviously around 3 o’clock this afternoon, in a terrible road rage incident that I don’t really want to get into, that’s for the authorities to handle, he was tragically killed. Senselessly. It’s so difficult because he was part of our family as his whole family has. His sister Joanna, his brother, they all graduated from Curtis. Went to different school, Richmond and Arizona and USC. But, he had worked so hard to come back from that Achilles tendon injury that he had and had a tremendous year in Canada that year that he played. Really in a positive upbeat attitude took a few weeks off, and really just got back to work to have a shot next year in the National Football League.

Can you describe him as a football player?

Well it’d be difficult to find one that was more competitive. And it’d be certainly difficult to find one that had more skill. That not only was a great payer but he was a tremendous leader on our football team and all-around was an athlete. He participated in football, basketball, ran track. Guy who stayed very active and like a lot of 16 and 17, he had his moments, he had his times. But who hasn’t? He had developed himself into a fine young man and his competitive spirit is what carried him through that tragic Achilles tendon tear which is in a lot of cases, career-ending, but not for Joe. The work he put in here, in the summertime in this August heat, spoke to the kind of person he was.

You had a very special relationship with him, kind of go into that for us?

Again, I knew him since he was in the third grade. I’ve always teased him that the best athlete in his family was his sister Joanna. We just had that kind of relationship. Of course, after the hurricane (Katrina), he stayed with us. He stayed with my wife and I, as his mom had been displaced with work. We grew very close and it’s like losing a family member. And to lose one so senselessly is what makes is so difficult. Life is difficult enough, but when evil overcomes good for this short period of time, it’s difficult to deal with.

You knew him off the field, describe how he was as a person overall.

Well, he had a great personality. He always had a smile, he was a little bit of a jokester. He liked that kind of stuff. But, what was so good about him was when he walked on that field, everything changed. He was as competitive as anybody I’ve ever coached, and again, no one is perfect. But Joe worked at getting better at everything he did. What’s interesting about this profession, especially at the high school level, is to watch him mature into men. Watch them grow from young kids into young men, and then being a man. He took his responsibilities very seriously and loved his son and did all that he could to be a good father to him and made me very proud.

How big of a loss is this to the community?

I think the loss of the name Joe McKnight is tragic, but I think to our community it’s bigger than that. It speaks to where we are in society and we need to as a community, do something to turn our attention back to Godly ways, and recognize that anger and hate and rage have no place in our society. We need to do all that we can to return ourselves back to that. As difficult as this is because it’s Joe, countless of other families have experienced the same senselessness. And that’s what I think concerns me personally as being a citizen in this community for a while. Seventy years I’ve been on this Earth, that’s what concerns me. 

(© 2016 WWL)


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