Joe McKnight
McKnight during the 2011 NFL season.
No. 25     New York Jets
Running back / Kickoff returner
Personal information
Date of birth: (1988-04-16) April 16, 1988 (age 33)
Place of birth: Kenner, Louisiana
High School: River Ridge (LA) Curtis Christian
Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) Weight: 205 lb (93 kg)
Career information
College: Southern California
NFL Draft: 2010 / Round: 4 / Pick: 112
Debuted in 2010 for the New York Jets
Career history
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
  • 2009 Phil Steele All Pac-10 Third Team
  • 2× All Pac-10 Honorable Mention (2007-2008)
  • 2007 Parade co-Player of the Year
  • All-Pro selection (2011)
Career NFL statistics as of 2012
Rushing yards     502
Rushing average     4.5
Rushing TDs     0
Receptions     17
Receiving yards     177
Receiving TDs     0
Stats at

Joe McKnight (born April 16, 1988) is an American football running back and cornerback for the New York Jets of the National Football League (NFL). He was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Jets. He played college football at the University of Southern California (USC).

High school career

McKnight attended John Curtis Christian High School in River Ridge, Louisiana, located approximately 10 miles west of New Orleans in Jefferson Parish.

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 2005 season.[1] 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, the same school which previously produced USC quarterback and future teammate John David Booty.[1] His family was able to relocate back to River Ridge, but their home had been destroyed so they moved into a one-bedroom apartment.[1]

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.[1] 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.[1]

McKnight is the latest and arguably the most talented 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 rank him among the top 2 of the 2007 high school class (next to quarterback Jimmy Clausen of Oaks Christian High School). Considered a 5-star recruit, on January 28, 2007, McKnight was named co-Player of the Year by Parade, sharing the honor with Clausen.[2] ranked McKnight the best running back prospect in the U.S.,[3] and the 2nd best recruit overall.[4] Analysts notice his elusiveness, impressive speed (4.3 in 40-yard dash) as well as his incomparable instincts and field vision but some say he is somewhat undersized, at 193 pounds (88 kg), for the college game. McKnight has been called “the most exciting prospect the state of Louisiana has produced since Marshall Faulk” by recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg.

USC assigned linebackers coach and former NFL All-Pro Ken Norton Jr. to handle recruitment of McKnight.[1] 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 the LSU. However, on February 7 McKnight committed to the University of Southern California. At USC, McKnight was joined by second-ranked running back prospect, Marc Tyler.[3] 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.[1]

McKnight stated that his interest in USC came from its football tradition, notably Heisman trophies and his interest in sports broadcasting, noting the USC Annenberg School for Communication.[1]

Recruiting controversy

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 is whether McKnight listened to a phone call between head coach Pete Carroll and Reggie Bush.[5] NCAA rules state that alumni cannot speak to players and attempt to persuade them to join their former school.

Joe McKnight and his high school coach, J.T. Curtis, would both later claim that McKnight misspoke during the news conference and that McKnight has never actually met or spoken to Bush.[6] 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 would choose to leave the state of Louisiana and attend USC.[7]

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 (180 cm) 193 lb (88 kg) 4.4 Jan 19,
Scout:75px   Rivals:75px
Overall recruiting rankings: Scout: 1 (RB, S)   Rivals: 2, 1 (RB), 1 (LS)
‡ Refers to 40 yard dash
Note: In many cases, Scout and Rivals may conflict in their listings of height, weight and 40 time.
In these cases, an average of the two was taken. ESPN grades are on a 100-point scale.

College career

File:Handoff to Joe McKnight at USC at Cal 2009-10-03.JPG

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 have called McKnight the "next Reggie Bush".[1] McKnight began college at the University of Southern California in June 2007.[1] 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.[8] 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.[9][10]

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.[11]

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.[12][13][14]

During his freshman season, McKnight painted "I need $" under his eye blacks to signify his desire to play professional football in the NFL.[15]

Before his sophomore season, McKnight was included in Sports Illustrated's spring list of top ten Heisman Trophy contenders going into the fall.[16] 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.[17][18][19] 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".[20]


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

In his 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.[21] Schenter responded, claiming that the SUV actually belonged to McKnight's girlfriend, Johana Michelle Beltran, although McKnight has reportedly been seen driving it around town.[22] As a result of the pending investigation, the USC compliance department would not clear McKnight to play in the 2009 Emerald Bowl.[23]

On January 8, 2010, McKnight declared his intention to forego his final year of eligibility, hired an agent and entered the 2010 NFL Draft.[24]

Professional career

New York Jets


McKnight was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round (112th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft.[25] 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.[25] McKnight formally signed with the Jets on June 22, 2010.[26]

McKnight struggled in the early stages of his professional career, vomiting during the Jets' rookie minicamp in May 2010.[27] McKnight later admitted he had not been in proper condition at the time.[27] He continued to struggle into the preseason, fumbling the football three times.[27] 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.[27] 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.[28][29] 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.[30]


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.[31] 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.[32] On January 16, 2012 Mcknight was named as the Kick Returner for All-Pro team By Pro Football Weekly / Pro Football Writers Association.[33]



McKnight takes a pitch play from Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

McKnight announced that he had been gaining weight throughout the season and going into the 12-13 preseason camp he weighed 215lbs, aiming to be between 205 and 210 pounds throughout the regular season.[34]

On September 26, 2012, Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan announced that McKnight will play cornerback. This change is due to Darrelle Revis’ season-ending ACL tear.[35]

New York Jets franchise records

  • Longest play in a single game (107 yard kickoff return for Touchdown vs. Baltimore Ravens) 10/2/11

Awards and honors


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 1.9 Dufresne, Chris (2007-05-20). "Star recruit has folks upset back home". Los Angeles Times.,0,3412895,full.story.
  2. "McKnight splits top honor on Parade list". The Advocate. 2007-01-29.
  3. 3.0 3.1 running backs 2007,
  4. Rivals100 2007,
  5. Klein, Gary (2007-02-09). "USC looks into potential recruiting violation". Los Angeles Times.,1,7603432.story.
  6. Bumgarner, Bill (2007-02-10). "Curtis coach says Bush didn't call McKnight". The Times-Picayune.
  7. "Carroll blames LSU fans for recruiting flap". 2007-02-10.
  8. "Frank Gifford Endowed Football Scholarship Established At USC". USC Trojans. 2007-02-28.
  9. Klein, Gary (2007-08-15). "McKnight is finding his way". Los Angeles Times.,1,4628038.story.
  10. Markazi, Arash (2007-08-14). "Postcard from camp: USC". Sports Illustrated.
  11. "McKnight sparks No. 7 Southern Cal past Arizona". USA Today. 2007-10-13.
  12. Hiserman, Mike (2008-01-02). "McKnight looks simply 'Reggie-ish'". Los Angeles Times.,1,2348994.story.
  13. Feldman, Bruce (2008-01-02). "Hyped freshman shows signs of being USC's next big star". ESPN the Magazine.
  14. Moore, David Leon (2008-01-02). "McKnight gives glimpse of future in USC's Rose Bowl win". USA Today.
  15. Markazi, Arash (2008-01-02). "Plague of allegiance". Sports Illustrated.
  16. Menez, Gene (2008-05-01). "Ohio State's Wells is the man to beat in the 2008 campaign". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 2008-05-05.
  17. Adam Rose, Which Itch is Which?, Los Angeles Times, August 14, 2008, Accessed November 20, 2008.
  18. Gary Klein, Joe McKnight injures hand in dorm accident, Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2008, Accessed November 20, 2008.
  19. Gary Klein, A tough season for Joe McKnight, Los Angeles Times, November 13, 2008, Accessed November 20, 2008.
  21. Gary Klein; Lance Pugmire (December 19, 2009). "USC investigating tailback Joe McKnight's use of vehicle". Los Angeles Times.,0,2881407.story. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  22. "McKnight's Girlfriend Owns SUV". ESPN. December 20, 2009. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  23. Markazi, Arash (December 26, 2009). "McKnight sits out Emerald Bowl". ESPN. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  24. Schad, Joe (January 8, 2010). "McKnight leaving USC for draft". ESPN. Retrieved January 9, 2010.
  25. 25.0 25.1 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.
  26. 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.
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 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.
  28. 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.
  29. 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.
  30. 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.
  31. 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.
  32. 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.
  35. MEHTA, MANISH. "Jets running back Joe McKnight will play more cornerback to help fill the void left by Darrelle Revis' season-ending knee injury". The New York Daily News. Retrieved 27 September 2012.
  36. "McKnight, Carter and Forbath Named Pac-10 Football Players of the Week" at Pac-10 official website (accessed May 13, 2010).
  37. Ryan Chatelain, "John Curtis' Joe McKnight is The Times-Picayune's Male High School Athlete of the Decade". Times-Picayune, December 27, 2009.

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