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A family's athletic legacy: Banquet set to honor Knox family's contribution on local sports fields

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Andy Knox, Sr.

The Thomson High School Athletic Booster Club will honor the Robert and Ruth Knox family at their annual banquet tomorrow night. The late Mr. Knox was a local attorney, former city mayor and devout Bulldog. "Miss Ruth" is active in many community endeavors including supporting Thomson High School where their children and grandchildren enjoyed both athletic and academic success.

I was fortunate to have the chance to personally watch two of their grandchildren perform on the athletic field. Grandson Andy Knox, Jr., was a Bulldog football player and granddaughter Dottie Knox played softball and golf. I even saw a third grandchild, Don McNeill, Jr., play football for the Dogs by means of videotape. In other words, the athletic experience of the Knox grandchildren is not just hearsay to me. I saw it with my own eyes.

Since I was not around at the time I had to research the athletic status of sons Bob, Jr. and Andy and son-in-law Don McNeill, Sr. Don's wife was the late Mary Knox McNeill, who will also be honored tomorrow night as the namesake of a new scholarship.

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Andy Knox, Jr.

Were Bob's, Andy's and Don's Thomson High athletic exploits the stuff legends are made of or just another rumor? In order to gain some insight I turned to none other than longtime Knox family friend George Lokey. I'm sure learning that George was my source will make reading the rest of this column very interesting for Bob, Andy and Don.

What did George say? First of all he immediately disqualified much of his firsthand knowledge of these gentlemen's high school days. George told me that most of Bob and Don's old stories could not be told in public and he really let Andy off the hook by acknowledging that "I wasn't around except to watch Andy's games because he was younger."

"I was Class of 1961 and Bobby skipped a grade and joined Don in the Class of 1962," Mr. Lokey said. "We played for Coach Jack Harper and Bobby always caught on fast. His ability, or willingness, to do exactly what the coach said made him a pretty good end and linebacker. He was a first string basketball player too."

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Dottie Knox

Lokey added that he hurt his knee badly in one game, and when Bob took his place at linebacker he "made too many tackles." He also started to tell about how he and Bob used to lifeguard at the city pool and how Bob's unique "uniform" attracted the attention of the female swimmers. At that point George's wife Kay promptly redirected the conversation back to football so I didn't get the whole lifeguarding story.

"Andy was a great player on some of Thomson's best teams," said George. "I wasn't around him at practice, but he was a good player and my observation was that he was a little more athletically gifted than his brother."

I know Andy pretty well myself, and am aware that his football future was cut short by a knee injury at the University of Georgia. And speaking of gifted, I also know that Andy is now a top-notch businessman. Again, those are my words, not George's.

Don McNeill started his high school career at the Baylor School in Chattanooga. He transferred back home to Thomson and had to sit out his junior year due to the rules of the day. He was able to practice however and as part of the scout team gave the varsity guys quite a workout in scrimmages.

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Don McNeill, Sr.

"He ran over me in one practice, stuck his foot in my eye, and gave me a big cut to the face," Lokey described. "I had to play an important game against Morgan County with stitches in my head."

"Don had a major college future except for a knee injury, but I talked him into joining me at Presbyterian College," said Lokey. "I used to tell everybody that his daddy paid me to room with him so I could help him with the books," laughed George. "Rooming with him was the least I could do since I talked the coach into giving him a scholarship. In reality he caught on to the bookwork faster than I did."

"It all paid off because Don scored a touchdown against Frederick College from Virginia the first time he ran the ball his freshman year," Lokey reluctantly admitted.

Any honor coming the way of the Knox family is well deserved in my book. Besides their obvious contributions to the high school and community, they have been helpful to my family and me in many ways, both large and small. The second best decision my wife ever made was walking into the office of Bob's wife, Dot, to help us find a home in Thomson in 1991. Andy's wife, Anne, taught our daughter, Ashley, in the fourth grade. Like many of you, we are proud to count them as friends.



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Bob Knox, Jr.




Web posted on Thursday, March 31, 2005











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