Living with The Man

Uprooted by Katrina, a football standout has found sure footing with his coach
November 20, 2006

THE FLOOD startedin the laundry room, then spilled into the den. When Joe McKnight, theoffensive motor of unbeaten John Curtis Christian in River Ridge, La., realizedhe had overloaded the washing machine, he did what he tends to do in a tightspot: He asked his coach for help. "Well, let's get a mop," said J.T.Curtis. "Let's clean this up."

Curtis, 66, hasbeen helping his star senior get his life in order since Hurricane Katrinaforced McKnight, his mother, Jennifer, and his brother, Jonathan, 14, fromtheir home in Kenner, La. Curtis invited McKnight and family--as well as twoother displaced players, Darryl Brister and Jonathan English--to live with himand his wife, Lydia. (Jennifer and Jonathan have since moved to an apartment.)Curtis gives the players chores: garbage duty, dishwashing and laundry."It's been an adjustment for the guys," says Curtis. "They don'twant to make it look like they're the teacher's pet."

It would be hardfor any coach not to be high on McKnight, who has helped the 10--0 Patriotsrise to third in SI's national power rankings. At 6 feet and 190 poundsMcKnight is perhaps the nation's most potent all-around threat (box, below),excelling at running back, wide receiver, cornerback, safety and kick returner.He's averaging 16.5 yards a carry and 36.1 yards a reception and, after a39-yard touchdown catch in a 55--14 win over Pine (La.) High last week, has 19TDs. On Sept. 29, against No. 1--ranked Hoover (Ala.) High (the school featuredin MTV's Two-a-Days), McKnight had two TD catches and an interception in a28--14 win. One Big 12 school has McKnight, who has run a 4.31 40-yard dash,ranked first in the U.S. at all his positions. McKnight says Florida State,LSU, Miami, Notre Dame and USC are on his short list of colleges.

McKnight, who doesnot have a relationship with his father, says Curtis "put me in a stablehousehold; he's made a really big difference in my life." McKnight has beenmaking a big difference for his coach--and will try to do so again againstDonaldsonville (La.) High in the second round of the state playoffs thisFriday.

Renaissance Men

Meet the nation'sother top multipurpose threats

WILL HILL, St.Peter's Prep (Jersey City), Junior QB/SS/WR
In a 63--14 win over Bergen Catholic (Oradell, N.J.) last Saturday, Hill(6'3", 190 pounds) threw for 103 yards, ran for 120 and had a 44-yard TDcatch. In two years as starting QB, he has led the Marauders, who play SetonHall Prep on Saturday, to 21 straight wins.

GREG LITTLE,Hillside (Durham, N.C.), Senior WR/RB/SS/QB
He had 1,441 yards and 18 TDs in total offense this season. With his 4.4 speedin the 40, the 6'3", 205-pound Little is expected to play wide receiver atNotre Dame next year.

KENNY TATE, DeMatha(Hyattsville, Md.), Junior WR/RB/KR/SS
The 6'4" 215-pounder is also a star forward on DeMatha's basketball team.He has averaged 9.2 yards per carry and has 16 catches for 347 yards and oneinterception this season for the Stags, who play Good Counsel (Wheaton, Md.) onSunday in the Catholic school championship.

JOHN CURTIS CHRISTIAN

River Ridge, La.

PHOTORUSTY COSTANZA/THE TIMES-PICAYUNEHE'SEVERYWHERE The versatile McKnight (above and left) has helped Curtis (far left)and the Patriots go 10--0. PHOTORAPHAEL GRUBBS[See Caption Above.] PHOTOARISTIDE ECONOMOPOULOS/THE STAR-LEDGER

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)