During the alumni homecoming weekend in the fall of 2018, senior Jordan Anderson was approached by an alum suggesting a new project for his sports media major: creating a video to recognize Harley Knosher’s impact on Knox athletics. Knosher, who originally came to Knox in 1960 to serve as the head baseball and basketball coach and assist with the football team, ended up working as the athletic director at Knox, a position he held until his retirement in 2000.
Anderson, who made the all conference second team as a defensive end in his final of four seasons on the Knox football team, was immediately interested in the opportunity to produce a tribute to Knosher. Over time, it was decided that he would produce a one-hour documentary with other students to highlight some of Knosher’s favorite memories from his time at Knox.
Anderson has put together a team of students to work on the documentary, while also receiving support from Assistant Professor and Chair of Journalism James Dyer, who runs the Knox College Oral History Project thanks to the generosity of Bob Borzello ‘58.
Juniors Emily Mosher and Blake Godbold and freshman Kyle Williams have joined Anderson in this project and have worked alongside him every step of the way. Mosher is working as the executive producer alongside Anderson, while Godbold and Williams are working as videographers and helping to promote the project.
Because of his experience in conducting oral history projects, Dyer has served as a teacher for the four students, meeting with the group once or twice a week over the past two terms to hone their skills for the project, as well as in the editing process.
“I thought it’d be a good documentary to do because of his stature at Knox,” Dyer said. “Hardly a day goes by where I don’t run into somebody who hasn’t been touched by him in some way.”
For Athletic Director Daniella Irle, supporting an effort to produce a tribute to Coach Knosher was an incredible opportunity for the school as a whole.
“Harley developed athletics,” Irle said. “He grew the understanding of what sports could do for Knox, but I also think he touched lives. It’s not just what he did, it’s all the people that he was able to influence and then they go out and have an influence É it’s that ripple effect.”
For Godbold, even though he was never coached by Knosher at Knox, Knosher’s legacy still has a strong presence in the Knox community and athletic department.
“We know he’s had a profound impact on campus for a long time and I think those values still roam around campus today.”
When Knosher was approached by Anderson early in the process, he was not sure there would be an audience for the finished product.
“My immediate reaction was to feel kind of embarrassed,” Knosher said. “It just didn’t seem quite sensible to me that there would be any reason or enough interest that a documentary be made of my career and it felt a little silly.”
Over time, though, Knosher began to appreciate the project’s purpose and was constantly amazed by the effort the students were putting into their project.
“I have to say, as this thing has materialized and I’ve seen the kind of expertise and effort that Jordan and the other students are putting into it, and I learned how really ready my former players and colleagues and friends were to participate, I just felt awfully good about it,” Knosher said.
The group has also worked in conjunction with K Club Coordinator Jillian Brackett, who has been instrumental in the group’s efforts to interview alumni across the country.
Because the group wanted to be as cost efficient as possible, Anderson traveled for these interviews outside of Illinois alone. For Anderson, this project has given him the opportunity to work on skills he hopes to use in his future career in sports storytelling.
“If you make a mistake in an environment like this, it’s not as problematic and you can learn from that,” Anderson said.
This has been a great learning experience for Godbold as well, who initially did not bring the same past experience in the field as Anderson.
“I feel like the biggest thing I can take away from this is learning how to talk to people and ask the right questions to get the answers you need in order to not only paint a picture but also get your story across,” Godbold said.
For Irle, not only is this an opportunity to produce a tribute to the incredible impact Knosher has had on Knox as a whole, but also a chance to document the developing history of athletics at Knox. This makes the efforts of the student group invaluable to the Knox community.
“I don’t care if it’s athletics or chemistry or journalism, history matters. I think in order to really understand where you’re going, you really have to understand where you’ve been,” Irle said. “It’s going to provide us with a snapshot in time of things that otherwise none of us would have the time in our day to day lives to really do this or do it well.”
Irle also cited this project as the perfect example of what a Knox student-athlete should stand for, as three of the four students involved in the production compete on a varsity sports team.
“They have some extraordinary talents and to see them take the education they got in the classroom and then apply it in their passion É has been really fun to watch,” Irle said. “Because at the end of the day, that’s really what it’s about, it’s applying everything you gain in the classroom to real life.”
After being interviewed by the group in his home last week, Knosher came away very impressed with their drive and expertise.
“I used to try and say to young people when I was a teacher and a coach that the thing you really need to do is mean what you say, and if I have ever come across a group of kids who mean what they say, this is the group,” Knosher said. “It’s outstanding. They remind me of terrific kids that I’ve known over the years at Knox who have all gone on and done terrific.”
The team has finished the filming and interviewing processes and they are now focused on the editing process. They plan to submit a rough draft version of the documentary to Dyer on May 15, with the hope that they will complete the project by June 1.
“We’re teaming up with the athletic department to sell copies É with a donation to the K Club [donors] would receive a copy [of the finished product],” Anderson said. “We’re in talks with the athletic department that we’re going to screen this to the public at homecoming next year.”
As they near their deadline, Dyer has only seen pieces of the group’s work on film, but is confident the finished product will live up to the legacy of Coach Knosher.
“Harley and his family and his former students will be pleased with the work…it’s the least we could have done for a man of his stature at Knox, how much he’s given to Knox, and how much he still gives to Knox,” Dyer said.
For Anderson, the production process and the many interviews he has conducted with individuals whose lives were directly influenced by Knosher at Knox have opened his eyes to the massive impact the legendary coach has had on everyone he comes into contact with.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve heard several people describe [Knosher] the exact same way. I think that is what makes somebody genuine and unique in their own way,” Anderson said. “The more I’ve spoken with him and gotten to know him, everything that people say, I would absolutely echo. I think that Knox athletics is what it is because of him.”
Emily Mosher is the Sports Editor for The Knox Student. Kyle Williams is a sports writer.