NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - At a school full of football tradition, Joe McKnight rewrote the record books. But with his unexpected death today, he leaves behind much more than just statistics.
It wasn't that long ago that Joseph Nathan McKnight was the poster boy for all that was great about Louisiana high school football.
"It would be difficult to find one more competitive and it would be difficult to find one with more skill," said Coach J.T. Curtis. "He was great player and leader on the team. An all-around athlete."
When McKnight came through John Curtis Christian School around a decade ago, he did so with a bang. The things McKnight did on the football field were the stuff of legends. New Orleans native Tyrann Mathieu confirmed that with a tweet, saying: "Everybody in the world wanted to be @ReggieBush, us in New Orleans wanted to run the ball like Joe McKnight."
People came to see the three-time all-state performer perform. And when the lights were their brightest, McKnight was usually at his best. He helped guide the Patriots to multiple state championships.
While in the process, he raised his own prep profile to star status. Simply put, in recruiting circles, Joe McKnight was a wanted man by everyone. LSU thought they had him; Southern Cal got him. He went there because Reggie Bush went there before him, and McKnight was seen by Trojan nation as the heir apparent to Bush.
He'd spend three seasons with the Trojans before declaring himself for the NFL draft. And waiting for him in the fourth round - the New York Jets.
He'd spend three seasons in New York and another season in Kansas City before a leg injury brought his brief NFL career to an end.
A year away from the game brought out the hunger, and that's when McKnight found his way to Canada where, in his only season, he recaptured some of the magic that made him one of the nation's top players.
Now we're left with just memories. Joe McKnight made the game of football seem so effortless, but the game of life wasn't always so easy.
And today, this happens. And once again we're left wondering why.
"It's like losing a family member, and so senselessly makes it so difficult," Curtis said. Life is difficult enough, but when evil overcomes good, it's very difficult to deal with."