EDMOND — When Johnny Knox heard Lindell Tate's story, the former NFL receiver knew he had to do something.
Tate, a senior running back at Edmond North, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in an August scrimmage and then discovered he was no longer covered by SoonerCare due to being 19. He was unable to pay for the required surgery.
Nearly three months later, Tate received his surgery on Wednesday. The community rallied around Tate to help him receive the procedure and more at no cost to him.
His story, however, brought Knox to Edmond this week to announce that he is starting a foundation to help athletes in similar situations.
“Coming from my situation, I know how hard it can be to go through rehab, go through the surgery, people help you here and there,” Knox said. “For all of us just to be here today for Lindell's situation, it means a lot I'm pretty sure to him and to me.”
Knox, who is retired from the NFL after suffering a career-ending spine injury in Dec. 2011, attended the Huskies' team dinner Wednesday. He will also attend the Edmond North senior breakfast Thursday morning and the Huskies' football game at Wantland Stadium against U.S. Grant.
Following Thursday's breakfast, that's when he will finally get his chance to meet Tate.
“Before I got hurt, I was always big on charity and doing charity here and there, and after I got hurt I knew I still wanted to do things like this,” Knox said. “From hearing Lindell's situation, that was just a big opportunity for me to come out, help his situation out and build off this and grow.”
For Edmond North coach Scott Burger, it was nice to see someone like Knox step up.
“It's cool that somebody of that stature will want to help kids,” said Burger. “Obviously, we try to tell these kids all the time that you can't take things for granted, and this is a perfect example that your career can end in a split second, and his did.
“His heart is in the right place wanting to help kids get help when needed and that's awesome.”
Knox dazzled at the 2009 NFL Combine with a 4.29 40-yard dash, earning a fifth-round selection in the draft that year by the Chicago Bears. But his career was cut short when he suffered a hit that nearly bent him in half backward against the Seattle Seahawks, nearly leaving him paralyzed. He never played again and officially retired in February.
“I miss it every day,” Knox said. “Coming from Texas, football's always been big. I've been doing it since I was little every day, so now that I don't get a chance to be out there battling with my teammates, it's hard from time to time but it's still humbling.”
Knox shared that story with the Edmond North players. He plans to share that with Tate, too.
But Knox and others were just happy to hear that Tate's surgery finally happened. He can soon begin rehabilitation.
“It's a long time coming,” Burger said. “We were just talking about that with Johnny. It should have been four weeks of rehab right now. Hopefully with what he wants to try to get done, he can get all of those kids and get in and take care of them early.”