USC running back Joe McKnight loves playing in big games for USC, where the weather is always great. Â That was not the case four years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit him harder than any Ohio State defender did in the Coliseum on national television.
Photo Credit: Jason Lewis
From Hurricane Katrina to the sunshine
By Jason Lewis
Sentinel Staff Writer
Walk out onto USC’s practice field and it appears that running back Joe McKnight is thoroughly enjoying his college experience. He’s playing for one of the top programs in college football, he practices against some of the best athletes in the nation, and he does not seem to have many problems weaving in and out of USC’s stout defense.
One of McKnight’s favorite aspects about playing at USC is the weather. “I love it out here because the weather is way different out here in California,” McKnight said after a tough practice.
That was not the case four years ago, when McKnight’s home town of River Ridge, Louisiana, was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. River Ridge is only about 10 miles outside of New Orleans, and McKnight and his family lost everything.
The hurricane hit just before his junior season in high school and his life and football career were turned upside down. He was separated from his mother, who had evacuated to Baton Rouge, and he temporarily relocated to Shreveport.
After relocating back to River Ridge, his high school team played a shortened season. McKnight still produced 22 touchdowns (nine rushing, five receiving, four punt returns, three interceptions, and one kickoff return), while leading his team to a state championship.
McKnight may be enjoying the sunshine of Los Angeles, but the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina will always stay with him.
“It takes the little things in life and makes it more valuable to you,” McKnight said. “When everything is taken away from you, the little things become more meaningful.”
Dealing with real adversity has prepared McKnight for the smaller adversities of life.
“I’ve had to struggle with adversities since I’ve gotten out here,” McKnight said. “Injuries, school, trying to stay on the field. It’s still an up hill battle. You’re still out there competing and battling. That’s what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life.”
McKnight is battling with the best of them. USC has been loaded at tailback since he stepped foot on campus and he has been competing with future NFL running backs. Stephon Johnson and C.J. Gable both will be on an NFL roster pretty soon. The three running backs split time, but McKnight puts the most fear in defenders because he has the ability to score on any play.
McKnight said that his family is doing well. They have moved from River Ridge to Kenner, and he is more than happy to miss out on the hurricane season.
“It was a difficult experience, but living down there you go through it from time to time,” McKnight said. “Every year you’re caught with a hurricane.”
Competing against some of the best college football players in the nation on a daily basis is much easier for McKnight than dealing with the devastating effects of a hurricane.