‘It’s just been an honor to be able to do this for as long as I have,’ he says
(Dec. 13, 2019) Bob Knox, longtime Stephen Decatur football coach, announced his retirement during a small, low-key press conference on Tuesday at the high school.
“It’s been an honor and a pleasure to be the head football coach here,” he said. “I’ve seen many changes from when we first started – all positive – and it’s just been an honor to be able to do this for as long as I have.”
The humble coach didn’t want a big event, but just to step down quietly, but Decatur Principal Tom Sites thought otherwise. They compromised on a meeting with members of the media and school officials in a small conference room.
“Coach Knox has been with us here for 46 years, 35 as the head coach,” Sites said. “We’re sad to see him leave Decatur football. His legacy is going to last on for many, many years.”
When asked how he would sum up three decades of running the Decatur program, Knox became a bit emotional as he said, “It’s been a great ride.”
The relationships he’s formed and built with his assistant coaches and players and members of the community over the years have been really special, he added.
Knox was hired in 1974 as a social studies teacher and as an assistant football coach at Decatur. He was the head basketball coach from 1980-82 and has been at the helm of the Decatur football program since 1983.
Knox decided to step down for the 2016 season when his then 2-year-old grandson, Eli Knox-Tadli, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer.
With his grandson responding well to treatment, Knox returned to lead the Seahawks for the 2017 season.
“Four years ago when my grandson got sick, I made a list before I came back of things that I liked about it, [what] I really enjoyed and things I didn’t enjoy,” he said. “And then after this season, I made another list because I just hadn’t spent the time with my family over the past 35 years that I think I could have, that I think I should have.”
When he looked at that list of pros and cons, he said he thought about it for a while and talked it over with his wife, Judy.
“She said, ‘when it’s time, it’s time. You’ll know,’” he said. “And I just think it’s time. Now’s the time.”
Knox met with his players last week and told them his decision to retire as head coach.
“I think they were kind of shocked, especially the upperclassmen because I’ve been here for so long,” he said. “I told the kids I’ll be around. I said they’ll see me in the weight room, they’ll see me at 7-on-7 [drills] and they’ll see me at practices … I won’t be evaluating, I’ll just be watching.”
He plans on attending games, which is what he will miss most – the Friday nights on the sidelines, he said.
“I’m gonna miss it, sure I am,” he said. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my family.”
He still plans to continue to teach at Decatur.
Knox said he never imagined he would have such a long and successful career.
“When Mr. [Lou] Taylor was the principal, he kept telling me this is a one-year contract. Well, I must have done something right,” he said.
Over the years, Knox has had many memorable moments. He smiled as he started to talk about one that stood out.
“I’ve got a bunch of them, [but] probably the one that rings out the most, Bennett was in the midst of two straight championships and we were playing at County Stadium and it was 1980 – I don’t know [the exact date] it’s been awhile – and they were ranked No. 1 in the conference and we were ranked No. 2,” he said. “We had a very good team at that time. The game was hard-fought. It was a physical game back and forth, back and forth.
“We intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown and that ended up being the final score,” he continued. “We broke their winning streak and ended up winning 6-0. One of my assistant coaches was my eyes in the sky that night and for that year and for a number of years, came running down and ran across the field and jumped into my arms so excited.”
That coach was Taylor.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Taylor, superintendent of Worcester County Public Schools, said.
“I’m a former player – I played under Coach Knox – I’m a former assistant coach for 11 season with Coach Knox,” Taylor continued. “Today is really a bittersweet day for this school system … It’s been an honor as a player, a coach, a former principal and now superintendent of schools to have this gentleman as our head football coach here.”
In April 2018, Knox was inducted into the Maryland Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
While at the helm, Decatur won nine conference championships, made 10 state playoff appearances, competed in four regional championship games and in two semifinal matches. He was named Bayside Conference Coach of the Year seven times.
With an overall record of 232-141 at the time of the induction ceremony, Knox was ranked 13th on the All-Time Winningest Coaches in Maryland list, and No. 2 behind Chuck Markiewicz of Arundel (243-96) for Active Winningest Maryland Coaches.
He finished his career with 238 wins and 154 losses.
In his final game as coach, Decatur wrapped up the 2019 season with a 63-0 victory over the Snow Hill Eagles.
The team also had the opportunity to play on the school’s new turf field this season.
Decatur’s new athletic complex was dedicated during halftime of the Sept. 20 game against Easton in Berlin.
The Stephen Decatur High School Athletic Complex is named the “Robert G. Knox Field and Louis H. Taylor Stadium” in honor of the longtime football coach and teacher, and superintendent of schools.
“It’s the highest honor in my career as a football coach,” Knox said prior to the dedication ceremony.
Knox wanted to thank the numerous fans who have showed up on Friday nights to support the football program over the years.
“I couldn’t have done it without them,” he said.
When asked what advices he has for whoever takes over the program, Knox said they should “be themselves and do it their way.”