News travels fast these days, especially when it’s bad. Tamba Hali was on his phone at the Chiefs’ practice facility Thursday when he saw that former teammate Joe McKnight had been killed, apparently in a road rage incident, and Hali promptly told Derrick Johnson and other teammates.
The news caused a clearly-saddened Johnson to shake his head Friday.
“He had a son, too,” Johnson, an inside linebacker, said of McKnight “Nobody should even go through that. Just a senseless act.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid agreed, calling McKnight’s death “tragic.”
“This world is a bit crazy right now — just a bit crazy,” Reid said. “Hopefully, we can stop the nonsense that is going on, but what a great kid. We appreciated having him here. Our hearts go out to his family.”
Johnson said McKnight, a running back who spent two games with the Chiefs in 2014 before a torn Achilles’ tendon ended his season (and ultimately, his NFL career) will be remembered as a fun-loving, positive guy.
“He was always the life of the party,” Johnson said. “Everybody knew Joe. Joe made an impact.”
The news hit others hard, as well. Running back Charcandrick West, a Louisiana native as was McKnight, is easily one of the most upbeat, optimistic players on the team, but West was so saddened by McKnight’s death he couldn’t even talk about it.
Receiver De’Anthony Thomas, who was a longtime commit to Southern California — McKnight’s college of choice — before he ultimately settled on Oregon, was saddened, too.
“When I first met Joe, I treated him as a big brother,” Thomas said. “It’s very shocking.”
Hali, an outside linebacker, said the fact the shooter has already been released from custody was not lost on McKnight’s former teammates, either.
“You never expect to hear news like this, especially with a guy like Joe,” Hali said. “Then to make news worse, the guy (that shot him) gets released. Usually you keep people in custody when they commit murder.”
Now they’ll try to keep McKnight’s memory alive in their minds.
Running back Knile Davis credited McKnight, a former prep star who once drew comparisons to Reggie Bush for his receiving and running ability and was the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect in 2007, for helping him improve his feet and patience as a runner. To this day, he still gets his ankles taped over his socks, the same way McKnight did.
“Joe was a legend, man, in a lot of different areas,” said Davis, who went to school at Arkansas, one of many schools that actively recruited McKnight. “I learned a lot from him.”