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Making History: Chuck Knox, NFL Legend and Juniata Alumnus, Donates $1 Million

(Posted January 26, 2005)

Chuck Knox coaching the Seattle Seahawks




HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Chuck Knox, a former football star at Juniata College and legendary National Football League coach who took the Los Angeles Rams to the conference title game and built the expansion Seattle Seahawks into a perennial contender, has donated $1 million to his alma mater to endow the Dr. Charles R. and Shirley A. Knox Chair in History.

Knox has never forgotten the college where he started his coaching career and trained the keen mind that led three separate NFL teams to success.

"It was important to me because I majored in history and I saw that the gift would further improve the program at Juniata," Knox says "It was a classic liberal arts education where I was able to learn from many different fields."

"Chuck has been a tremendous influence on the history and academic legacy of Juniata," says Juniata College President Thomas Kepple. "He is proud of the education he received at Juniata and to give us the resources to recruit and retain brilliant historians is a gift beyond measure, one that will affect our students and graduates for generations to come."

A native of Sewickley, Pa., Knox earned a bachelor's degree in history from Juniata in 1954. He was hired as an assistant coach at the college the same year and went on to become head coach at several Pennsylvania high schools from 1955 to 1959. Later in 1959, he was hired as an assistant coach at Wake Forest University and then moved to the University of Kentucky from 1961 to 1962. His first professional coaching job was with the New York Jets of the American Football League, where he was instrumental in signing Joe Namath, and as offensive line coach developed such players as Winston Hill and Sherman Plunkett.

"I take the same basic premise I took coaching high school football in Pennsylvania. Hard work will win," said Knox in a 1991 issue of Sports Illustrated. His hard work throughout his career was commemorated in his autobiography "Hard Knox," published in 1988.
He left a job in a steel mill to come to Juniata's campus. While in Huntingdon, he met Shirley Rhine, a Huntingdon High School cheerleader and the couple married before Knox graduated. In his autobiography, he characterized himself as a "tough kid from the mills" who brought boxing gloves with him to Juniata. He graduated with academic honors.
At Juniata, he played on both the offense and defense as a tackle and was co-captain of the college's first undefeated team in 1953. He also earned letters in track, competing in the discus and shot put.

"My time at Juniata influenced my career in that I learned the basic concepts of teaching and relating to people during my time there," Knox says. "The football field is an extension of the classroom -- you even write out lesson plans for what you might do on a particular day -- and all those skills relate directly to what I learned at Juniata."

Juniata College history professor David Hsiung will be the first recipient of the Knox Chair in History. Hsiung, who came to Juniata in 1991, received the 2000 Pennsylvania Professor of the Year Award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. He is the author of "Two Worlds in the Tennessee Mountains: Exploring the Origins of Appalachian Stereotypes," published in 1997. He currently is working on another book on environmental history in the United States in the colonial era.

Knox, who lives in La Quinta, California with his wife, served on the college's board of trustees from 1978 until 1999. He remains a trustee emeritus. A longtime supporter of Juniata, Knox has contributed donations to the college every year and gave $50,000 toward the construction of the Kennedy Sports and Recreation Center. He also served as honorary chair of a $1 million campaign to improve Juniata's athletic facilities that culminated in the construction of Knox Stadium, Juniata's 3,000-seat football field, in 1988.

He was elected to the Juniata College Sports Hall of Fame in its inaugural year 1995 and received the Alumni Achievement Award in 1974. He also was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree in 1983 at the college's commencement ceremony.

Knox was elected to the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1993 and became eligible for induction into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2003. His career won-lost record with three teams is 186-147-1. He was voted NFL Coach of the Year four times and was voted American Football Conference Coach of the Year in 1983 and 1984. He remains one of the few coaches in league history to win division championships for three different franchises.

Although Knox has not yet been honored by the NFL Hall of Fame, his lifetime achievements and multiple Coach of the Year Awards certainly qualify him. Compared to other coaches in the hall, Knox compares favorably. He has 84 more lifetime victories than Bill Walsh of the San Francisco 49ers; 70 more than George Allen of the Los Angles Rams and Washington Redskins; 50 more than Hank Stram of the Kansas City Chiefs; and 28 more than Marv Levy of the Buffalo Bills.

After joining the ranks of professional football coaches with the Jets, Knox moved to the National Football League as an assistant coach with the Detroit Lions from 1967 to 1972, also as offensive line coach.

Knox earned his first NFL head coaching job in 1973 with the Los Angeles Rams. At Los Angeles, Knox developed or drafted such All-Pro players as Lawrence McCutcheon, Jack Reynolds, Jack Youngblood, Fred Dryer and James Harris, the first African-American quarterback to start regularly for an NFL team.

By 1978, the respect Knox had built up as an innovator and motivational coach had spread throughout the league and the Buffalo Bills hired him as head coach and vice president of football operations. He made immediate news by trading O.J Simpson, who was then one of the NFL's greatest running backs on the downside of his career. Among the draft choices Knox received for Simpson, were All-Pro running back Joe Cribbs, and Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly.
Knox accepted the head coaching position for the Seattle Seahawks in 1982, where he helped develop the careers of Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, running back Curt Warner and quarterback Dave Kreig. Throughout his NFL coaching career, Knox also developed many assistant coaches who went on to head coaching positions, including Dick Vermeil, now coaching the Kansas City Chiefs, Ken Meyer, Kay Stephenson, Ray Malavasi and Leeman Bennett.

Chuck Knox was a head coach in the National Football League for 22 years, one of the longest tenures in league history. He also developed another football coach, his son Chuck, who is the defensive backfield coach for the Minnesota Vikings. Previously he worked with the Green Bay Packers, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Rams, where he worked as an assistant on his father's staff. He played football at the University of Arizona from 1984 to 1988.

Chuck and Shirley Knox have three daughters, Christeen, who lives in Denver, Colo.; Kathy, who lives in Redlands, Calif.; and Colleen, who lives in Brighton, Mich..

The couple has six grandchildren.





Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.