RENTON Pete Carroll says he feels an “extra connection” to Joe McKnight’s death because the Seahawks coach tried to assist his former USC running back last month.
McKnight, 28, played for Carroll with the Trojans through the 2009 season. He was shot and killed Thursday along a highway outside New Orleans in an incident of road rage.
“This is a real tragedy for a young man that all of us that knew Joey and brought him on, you know, when we recruited him and had him through the program and all the things that we did together,” Carroll said with more than a little emotion following the Seahawks’ practice Friday for Sunday’s game against Carolina.
The coach recruited McKnight out of Louisiana when he was one of the nation’s top high-school players.
“He was a very special kid and he had some special difficulties coming along growing up and we all knew about it and we just regarded the guy that he was knowing the course that he went,” Carroll said. “He had to travel and so for Joe to end up... for us to lose Joe, it just hurts everybody.
“I talked to a lot of people and heard from all kinds of people and everybody felt the exact same way. They just felt so bad because he had a great heart. He was a great kid. He was fun to be around, fun-loving. But you just knew he had a lot of stuff to overcome, and he was making it and he was overcoming stuff and he had a bit of a pro career and all that. And unfortunately, you know, this happened, so we're going to miss him greatly. Miss him greatly.
“I talked to Joey not three weeks ago and trying to help him with something -- and just felt terrible with this news that I wasn't able to do something that might have kept him in California. You know, he was in Pasadena at the time and this personally hit me that I wasn't able to do something that might have made a difference and keep him away from where he was.”
The New York Jets drafted McKnight in the fourth round in 2010. He played in the NFL for the Jets and Kansas City Chiefs, and in the Canadian Football League with Edmonton and Saskatchewan.
“I know a couple of the guys that I heard from were also working with Joe and doing some stuff with him to try to help him with a job and things like that that he was looking forward to,” Carroll said. “And just none of us were able to pull it off, so I just feel a little extra connection to it.”
Ronald Gasser, 54, remained at the scene of Thursday’s shooting and was taken into custody in Terrytown, Louisiana. Friday, police released Gasser because he had not been formally charged. The Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s department told USA Today “this matter remains under investigation.”
The sheriff there released a statement Friday saying Gasser fired three round through an open window of an automobile and that all three rounds struck McKnight, who authorities say was out of his Audi Q7 and “positioned at the passenger window” of Gasser’s Infiniti coupe.
Seahawks and former USC linebacker Mike Morgan noticed Friday that the man who shot his SC teammate was released from custody.
“Tough situation, man. I’m just praying for his family, his son; (he had) a kid,” Morgan said. “Just senseless acts, man. I can’t understand how someone would take someone’s else life. I don’t know what happened, the deal behind it. It’s just unfortunate ... It’s tough. Our whole Trojan Family is mourning.
“We’ve just got to do something about these crimes and stuff that is going on. I heard that the guy ... they haven’t filed charges or pressed charges on him or anything, so that’s kind of unfortunate.
“I just hope justice is served.”