Mineral Wells Index, Mineral Wells, TX

March 26, 2007

Keeping a dream alive landed Knight in NFL

By Craig Holamon

Curt Knight knows dreams can come true if you can keep them alive long enough.

The 1962 MWHS graduate saw a dream come to life when he became a place kicker for the Washington Redskins.

Knight kicked 101 field goals for the Redskins and is the team’s fifth all-time leading scorer with 475 points.

Knight kicked an extra point in a 14-7 loss to the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl VII in 1973 and played in the Pro Bowl in 1971.

He kicked 29 field goals and led the NFC in scoring with 114 points in 1971 and played for legendary Redskins coaches George Allen, Otto Graham and Vince Lombardi.

“It was an up-and-down thing, I had my moments,” he said. “I played in the NFL. I went to all of the different cities and played in a Super Bowl.”

His path to the NFL was along a winding road that saw him drift in and out of the game.

After Knight graduated from MWHS, he spent his freshman year at North Texas and then transferred to the Coast Guard Academy.

“I didn’t play at North Texas. Otto Graham was the head football coach and athletic director at the Coast Guard Academy. I was interested in going out for the football team and I had some interest in playing soccer,” Knight said. “Coach Graham took one look at me and said, ‘you’re gonna love our new soccer coach.’”

Knight kept the dream alive in his mind.

“I had something nagging at me in the back of my mind. I wanted to leave the door open. I played soccer and was on the all-New England team but I still wanted to try my hand at football,” he said. “I went out for the football team as a junior. They already had a kicker but Coach Graham let me kick long field goals. He let the other guy kick the extra points and short field goals.”

Knight, who had a time of 21.8 seconds in the 220-yard dash, played receiver.

“I weighed about 150 pounds but I was pretty fast. I was kind of lost on the football field because I have never played. He put me out at wide receiver on the first play of every game and had me run a fly pattern. If, I caught the ball it was fine, if I didn’t it was fine,” he said. “Other than that, I would sit on the bench. I was kind of a specialist specialist.”

“I determined that I probably wasn’t cut out for that sort of thing after my junior year, so I came back to Mineral Wells and went to work for Southern Airways. I worked there until I got drafted and went into the Army,” Knight said. “I was lucky because I was stationed in Germany. It was the only place in the world where service teams played Division I-level football. I played more football there than I did anywhere else.”

Another ironic turn kept Knight’s hopes alive.

“I ran into a guy in Germany who said he was a scout for the Dallas Cowboys and that he could get me a tryout. As it turned out, he really wasn’t a scout but it got me thinking, ‘I’m pretty good,’” Knight said. “I worked out for three or four months before I found out he was lying. When I came home to Mineral Wells, my dad told me the Cowboys were having open tryouts at a kicking caravan. I tried out as a soccer style kicker and they signed me.”

“I was working out behind the football stadium in Mineral Wells and I ran into a kid who had a square-toed shoe for straight-on kicking. I can’t remember what his name is,” he said. “The shoe was surprisingly comfortable, so I switched my kicking style and became a straight-on kicker.”

Knight’s career with the Cowboys was short-lived.

“I went to Thousand Oaks (Calif.) with the Cowboys. They had a bunch of kickers, so they had us fill out a physical form. One of the questions was, ‘have you ever been injured.’ I had a sprained ankle in college and I put that on the form,” he said. “They cut me without seeing me kick. All of a sudden my football career was over. I contacted a couple of teams but they said if I couldn’t pass the physical they didn’t want me.”

Knight’s relationship with Graham gave him another chance to kick in the NFL.

“Coach Graham had signed as the head coach of the Redskins. He said he had the best kicker in the league in Charlie Gogolac but he told me I could workout with them and that maybe some other team would see me,” Knight said. “I beat Charlie every day. I kicked longer and higher than he did but they put me on the taxi squad. I practiced with the team but I when it came Sunday, I didn’t play.”

Knight also kicked and punted for a semi-pro team in New England until Graham was fired and replaced by Lom-bardi.

“They let Otto go and hired Vince Lombardi. It was his last year as a NFL coach. He preferred me over Charlie (Gogolac) and I made the team. The rest is history.”

Knight came to Mineral Wells High School as a senior.

“My Dad retired from the Coast Guard took a job with Southern Airways as a flight instructor. I was only in Mineral Wells one year,” Knight said. “I lived all over the world but I’ve always listed Mineral Wells as my hometown. I loved playing for coach (Glen) Johnson, coach (Bill) Sweet, coach (Pat) Simmons and coach (Bill) Perrin.”

“I’m happy and pleased that the people of Mineral Wells still think enough of me to put me in the Hall of Fame, I’m excited about it,” Knight said.

Knight and his wife Debbie have been married since 1981.

Knight has four step-children, Debbie, 21, Dee Dee, 26, and Eddie, 26, and Frankie, 27, as well as a daughter, Amy, 37, and two grandchildren.