A New Orleans native, McKnight was named the national high school player of the year by Parade magazine in 2006, says NBC Sports.
In 2009, McKnight reportedly rushed for over 1,000 yards in his senior season at USC. He was drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL Draft and spent three seasons with the club before moving on to play two games for the Kansas City Chiefs during the 2014 season.
Joe McKnight’s first NFL practice was memorable for the wrong reason, says ESPN. A week after being drafted by the New York Jets in 2010, he showed up for rookie minicamp and threw up during practice.
It made for unflattering headlines, but McKnight overcame the rough start and became a dynamic kickoff returner for the Jets, especially in 2011 and 2012. He scored on a 107-yard return in 2011, the year he led the league in kickoff-return average.
McKnight was far from perfect — he fell out of favor with Rex Ryan’s coaching staff — but he was popular among teammates because of his sense of humor. Explaining his 16-pound weight gain at the start of offseason workouts in 2012, McKnight blamed his “McDonald’s diet.”
There was a happy-go-lucky side to his personality. He was the kid in school who got yelled at by the teachers but somehow endeared himself to his fellow students. He was a gifted player, one of the nation’s top high-school prospects before committing to USC, but he never fulfilled his immense potential.
In 2014, the Jets played a road game at the Kansas City Chiefs. McKnight, cut by the Jets, had caught on with the Chiefs, but he blew out his Achilles’ tendon and landed on injured reserve. He never got a chance to play against his old team, but he greeted them when the team bus pulled up to the hotel. There he was, waiting at the curb.
In 39 games with the Jets, McKnight amassed 502 rushing yards and 177 receiving yards. He also recorded 29 yards per return on kickoffs and two touchdowns during his successful stint on special teams, says the Bleacher Report.
In 2011, his 31.6 yards per return ranked No. 1 among all qualified players.
McKnight latched on with the Kansas City Chiefs for a brief stretch during the 2014 season, but he appeared in only two games before making his way to the Canadian Football League.
McKnight’s fans and former teammates REACT to his death. See on NEXT PAGE.