Knee provides lasting mementos for Trinity athletes

Published 12:26 am Sunday, February 28, 2010

Stevan Ridley has no shortage of athletic trophies.

He won a football state championship at Trinity Episcopal School and then was a redshirt freshman on the LSU team that won the BCS National Championship in 2007.

But his most treasured athletic reward isn’t made of metal or gold, it is, instead, a tall stack of thick red notebooks.

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“Those are something that you can never lose,” Ridley said. “They are good as gold to me.”

Those notebooks that Ridley cherishes so much are the hard work of Kent Knee, who has been keeping sports statistics for Trinity sports since 1969 and making scrapbooks for every player of each major team sport at Trinity since 1995.

“I do have my fair share of awards, which is good and all, but those are up on the wall,” Ridley said. “To have a book you can look at, sit down with your family and look at the pictures, it just brings you all the way back.”

Knee’s books include statistics from every game during the season, the total stats at the end of the season and pictures that were taken on and off the field.

In addition, the books include a page that lists awards players won, including All District, All Metro or All State.

Knee also includes a special surprise in each book, which in the most recent book for the 2009 football team, was a limerick he wrote for each player.

“A lot of times now, when my sons are home (Stevan and Chad, who was a part of Trinity’s 2001 football state championship), we’ll pull those books out and look at them and relive the fond memories,” Carolyn Ridley said. “And Mr. Knee gave us that.”

The scrapbooks can also help solve disputes between brothers.

“If it wasn’t for Mr. Knee me and my brother wouldn’t be competitive like we are today,” Stevan Ridley said. “We’ll go back and have brother arguments. We’ll look back at the stats books, and we’ll have the stats to prove (who performed better). He has every stat you ever did. It’s an awesome deal.”

Taking time for memories

Knee began creating the keepsakes first with only stat sheets inside.

“Ron Krause, who was the athletic director here and started the baseball program, said something about some college or university that did something like that,” Knee said. “I never saw one, or knew anything about it. But I thought, well what do you do with (the stats) once you have them?”

His first scrapbook was of the 1994-1995 varsity boys basketball team.

But Knee has perfected his craft throughout the years, as his books have more than doubled in size and now include pictures of most every game and candid shots of the players off the court or field.

“I guess they appreciate it,” Knee said. “Most of them do. I don’t know what happens to them 20 years later, I just give them to them.”

Knee recently saw an example of that appreciation while visiting the house of Trinity football and baseball player Jake Winston.

“Jake and his dad are big baseball fans and have this big autographed baseball collection,” Knee said. “He took me to Jake’s room and Jake has his own collection of autographed baseballs. And there by the boy’s bed was this stack of red books. That was alright.”

While Knee has only been producing team scrapbooks since the mid-90s, he is almost as much a part of Trinity as the Saints mascot itself.

“He is just a special man,” Carolyn Ridley said. “The words I would use with Mr. Knee are quiet strength. He’s always been that support for every coach. When they travel he’s on the bus looking out for the team. He’s been like the grandfather for the team. I know my sons appreciate it, and I really do.”

Filling a need, and a few hearts

Knee moved to Natchez in 1967 and became friends with Jim Foster and Clyde Adams, who were teachers and basketball coaches at Natchez High School.

From 1953 to 1968 Trinity was only a kindergarten through sixth grade school.

When the school added a junior high in 1968, Foster was hired as headmaster.

Adams later became the basketball coach at Trinity.

Knee wanted to help his friends out, so he started keeping statistics for Trinity’s athletic teams.

“Nobody else was doing it, so I started keeping stats for him,” Knee said. “I enjoyed doing it and it became a hobby. The school welcomed the help. I never got any pay for it, I just enjoyed doing it.”

That hobby became part of Knee’s life work for over 40 years, as he still is on the sidelines at most every Trinity football, basketball and baseball game keeping stats and taking pictures.

He then sits down after the season and painstakingly goes through all the statistics and pictures, arranges them on sheets of paper and puts them in a pocket folder.

It’s a lot of work for even a young man, and now at age 71, Knee isn’t sure how much longer he’ll be able to keep doing it.

“I’ve tried to get some help on some things, and it’s hard. They can get somebody to keep the stats, but I don’t think anybody else will do the books.”

And that can’t be good news to mamas and daddies who want to see their children’s high school memories captured in Knee’s books.

“I think there’s a couple of families that are going to keep me together with masking tape and bailing wire until their daughters graduate,” Knee said. “I’d like to do it at least one more year for coach (David) King and (his son) Kent’s sake, but I don’t know.”

But no matter how long Knee continues to create books, the ones he has already given out continue to be cherished by those who have received them.

“It’s something to look forward to at the end of the year,” Stevan Ridley said. “I have pictures with teammates I’ll remember forever. I can go back and relive junior high and high school moments because of Mr. Knee.

“Nobody paid him to do that, and that’s what makes him so awesome. He does that out of being the person that he is. We’re a bunch of random kids in his eyes, but he wanted to do that for us. He loved it and took pride in it.”