Chicago Bears Countdown to Kickoff: 13 Days with Johnny Knox

Chicago Bears, Johnny Knox
Chicago Bears, Johnny Knox / Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
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Chicago Bears, Johnny Knox
Chicago Bears, Johnny Knox / Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bears lose Johnny Knox to career-ending injury, life after football

Unfortunately, Knox's career took an expected turn late in the 2011 campaign. Facing the Seattle Seahawks, Knox caught a pass over the middle of the field and was running for extra yards when the ball came loose. The player that Knox was, he instantly dove to try to recover the loose ball, but a collision with Seahawks defensive tackle Anthony Hargrave forced Knox's back to essentially bend back upon itself.

Immediately, the teams and players at once knew that something was seriously wrong, and Knox remained down on the ground for some time, receiving medical treatment from the team. Thankfully, Knox still had control of his extremities, so paralysis was not a threat, but the Houston native had to be removed from the field via stretcher. He eventually arrived at the hospital where he was officially diagnosed with a thoracic-lumbar junction fracture-dislocation. Alongside significant nerve damage, it became increasingly unlikely for the young, budding star to continue his football career.

To his credit, Knox attempted to make a comeback. Starting the 2012 season on the physically unable-to-perform list, Knox never fully recovered from his massive injury, and ultimately retired from the NFL following the end of what would have been his fourth professional season.

Following the abrupt end to his career, Knox took a few seasons away from football to recover, but in 2015, he joined former Bears head coach Lovie Smith on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching staff, where he worked with the wide receivers. This helped Knox reignite his love for the game and showed him another avenue to be involved with football.

Knox would eventually leave the Buccaneers to become an assistant coach at Carmel High School, where he joined a staff that already had several former Bears in Nathan Vasher and Blake Annen. Knox, who still struggles to walk without a limp, is open with his players about his tragic injury and uses it as a lesson to help his players understand how to come back from adversity.

Today, Knox remains at Carmel and can spend the majority of his time with his wife and children. Still, despite his tragic injury, Knox remains a Chicago Bears fan favorite, who many claim would have been one of the best receivers in franchise history, and for good reason. As one of the fastest players on the team, Knox would have likely developed very well alongside a quarterback like Cutler, who always looked to stretch the field vertically.

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Alongside Bulls legend Derrick Rose, Knox remains at the top of the injury "what if" list amongst not only Chicago sports but professional sports in general. Many fans will soon be too young to even remember Knox's abilities outside of the occasional throwback highlight clip that circulates on social media, but for those who remember seeing the Abilene Christian product in full force, they will always sing his praise as an impressive young player.