Skip to main content

For McKnight, a Little Nerves, a Lot of Moves


Joe McKnight Fourth Round Draft Pick

Joe McKnight had a difficult time holding on today during the Jets' first rookie minicamp practice.

He dropped a couple of passes, he tossed his cookies and both his calves fought cramping.

"I thought Joe McKnight looked good when he wasn't throwing up. But a little anxiety kicked in and he probably hadn't worked out as well as he should and those things happen," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. "He did look good running the football, but he had some drops."

McKnight, who was selected in the fourth round of last weekend's draft, told reporters he felt dehydrated and didn't drink enough water prior to the workout. But the talented rookie running back also experienced a natural emotion of anxiety.

"I was nervous at first, just getting back out playing football, trying to show what I can do in front of Coach Ryan, and I just got a little nerves going a little bit," he said.

Before declaring for the draft, McKnight rushed for 1,014 yards and averaged 6.2 yards a carry his junior year at the University of Southern California. A versatile performer, he averaged 7.4 yards a rush as a sophomore (fourth-best in the nation) and totaled 66 receptions in three seasons of play.

"You can flex him out as a receiver, put him in the backfield and run routes. When you put the ball in his hands, today he was impressive," Ryan said. "It was like 'Whoa.' I'm like, 'You don't have to have six moves. Just use four or five on this level.' But he has plenty of wiggle and he has a lot of talent."

After drafting McKnight, the Jets sent veteran back Leon Washington and a seventh-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks so they could draft Kentucky FB John "The Terminator" Conner in the fifth round. Washington was a dynamic playmaker on offense and special teams in his four seasons with the Green & White.

Ryan said he wouldn't compare McKnight to Washington at this point. "But I think he definitely could help us on offense. I think the challenge to Joe is going to be helping us on special teams because he has loads of talent," Ryan said. "And as somebody told me today, when he hit the campus at SC, he was their best receiver and best corner. That was interesting."

Blessed with 4.4 speed, McKnight as a freshman was Southern Cal's primary punt returner, averaging 8.4 yards on 19 returns with a long of 45. He returned 13 punts over his final two seasons while wearing jersey No. 4 for the Trojans.

Ironically, McKnight wore No. 25 for this morning's practice. That's the same number former USC star Reggie Bush, a man he's been compared to for years, currently wears for the Saints.

"It wasn't my decision. I thought I was trying to leave something, but evidently I'm still back in the spotlight, in the shadow again," said McKnight. "But I'm just going to wear the number, not say anything about it, just wear it and just try to be me."

"I guarantee nobody thought about that. Just get him a number and let him go," downplayed Ryan later during his news briefing. "It's what you make of that number. It doesn't matter. He's not compared to anybody else. Let's just go play and he's a New York Jet and let's see how he does. Hopefully we'll compare him to Matt Snell someday."

McKnight said he wouldn't request a number change and was already looking forward to the rest of the weekend.

"That's all in the past," he said of the Bush comparisons. "I'm just trying to focus on playing football for the Jets and helping them win."

Update: McKnight was literally the last player off the field following this afternoon's second practice of camp.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content