After one year at Carmel, Vasher is now a volunteer assistant coach at Texas, his alma mater. In steps McKie, a first-year running backs coach.
Since his playing days came to an end, McKie has been training athletes at All Pro Sports Performance in Gurnee. His son Jalen McKie plays cornerback at Northern Illinois. Jason McKie was briefly a coaching intern under Ron Turner at Florida International in 2013, but hasn’t been on a football sideline since.
McKie, 39, didn’t know Annen, but heard good things from Knox and Vasher.
“They had great things to say about him,” McKie said. “We were down in Indianapolis during the combine together, we ran into each other there. We talked a little bit there. I told him I’d definitely come out.”
The 32-year-old Knox suffered a serious spinal injury with the Bears in 2011 and never played another NFL game. He underwent spinal fusion surgery and officially retired more than a year later in February 2013.
Since then, he hasn’t shied away from the game of football. Knox was a coaching intern for Lovie Smith with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015. He later became involved in the 7-on-7 teams at EFT Sports, where he met Annen.
“Coach Knox is hilarious,” Carmel senior tight end Connor Jones said. “I love coach Knox. He’s all about technique. If you run a route a yard short, he’s going to get you on it.”
Jones remembered watching the game when Knox suffered his injury. It took a little more digging when Annen was hired.
“I was like, ‘I’ve got to google this guy,’” Jones said. “I put him in YouTube, saw his college highlight tape. He played angry, which I like. I try to do that with my game. Aggressive mentality.”
Being a tight end, Jones works directly with Annen in practice.
“That experience, having played at the highest level, [he] translates his game onto us,” Jones said.
Knox was never a big dude. During his playing days, he was listed as 6-foot, 185 pounds. McKie, on the other hand, looks as if he could still play. He was 5-11, 240 pounds as a player, and the gym in Gurnee is keeping him in shape.
“He’s not a small guy,” Annen joked.
During 7-on-7 drills at a recent practice, the two kept a close eye on their positions. Knox, play sheet in hand, consulted his receivers between plays. McKie pulled a running back of the field between plays for a little extra guidance.
“I wanted to come out and get around the game more,” McKie said. “Help these young athletes get to where they want to be, mentor these guys and coach these guys up.”