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June 14, 2013

Former AISD coach, educator dies

After more than three decades of serving school district, Johnny Knott passes

Athens — Johnny Knott, who taught and coached in the Athens Independent School District for more than three decades, died Friday after a lengthy illness.

Knott, 75, began teaching in the Cayuga Public School System in 1963, before joining the AISD. He was also caretaker for Catfish Creek Ranch south of Athens, an avid gardener and fisherman.

“He always put other people first,” Knott’s son, Jason Knott said. “He’ll be remembered for his self-sacrifice.”

The students he taught and coached were among those sending Jason messages Friday after learning of his death. One recalled that Knott had given him lunch money one day back in 1972.

His greatest legacy is the more than 33 years he spent as a coach,” Jason Knott said. “It would be hard to count the number of lives he touched through the years.”

Jason Knott said his father cared for each member of the team, not just the standouts.

“He wanted to be sure everyone had a good time,” Jason Knott said. “He tried to give everyone the chance to play.”

John Cox, who covered many sporting events during Knott’s time as coach, said he was highly effective in bringing along the junior high football talent. During one stretch in the 80s, he coached the collection of players, which included quarterback Blake Armstrong, that went two weeks deep in the playoffs in 1990.

“He was the most knowledgeable coach, never to have been a head coach, that I’ve ever met,” Cox said.

Knott retired from the AISD in 1999 and won a spot on the school board, where he served a 3-year term. During that span, Jason Knott recalls, the bond election was passed for a new middle school campus. Knott was diligent in helping oversee the construction project. He was often seen at the construction site wearing a hard hat with the contractor’s logo on it.

“He was far more hands-on than maybe, the contractor would have liked,” Jason Knott said.

Knott left the school board after one term and along with his brother Bobby Joe Knott, opened a driving range on U.S. Highway 175, east of Athens. He would tend to the range and gather up the hundreds of balls hit there, while still taking time to tend a garden and go fishing.

“He planted so many tomatoes, that he was constantly giving them away,” Jason Knott said. “He would give some to Mexican restaurants for salsa, so they wouldn’t go to waste.”

Jason Knott said his father was devoted to his wife of 57 years, Winona. He was especially patient and kind to her during her struggles with Alzheimer’s for the past few years.

“I’m proud to call Johnny Knott my father,” Jason Knott said. “I think he’s already in heaven, planting his first row of tomatoes.”

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