The Portage community remembers local legend Bob Knight in the wake of his passing

Hailey Pullo, Editor-in-chief

Knight pictured here for his coaching staff photo

Saturday Oct. 23, legendary football coach and teacher Bob Knight passed away after being diagnosed with a brain tumor several weeks ago.

Knight was a dedicated coach, and spent 41 years with the Mustang football team, 34 of which were as the head coach. After starting his teaching and coaching career at Central in 1971, Knight spent decades putting life into not only the students of Portage Central, but the entire community. Knight’s commitment to the community did not end with the closing of his career as a coach and teacher, and he continued to be a pillar in the community even in the weeks leading up to his passing.

Through his involvement Knight’s influence drastically changed not only the daily lives of students but the environment of the school as a whole.

“I had friends who started teaching here in the 1960s and truly the word they would use to describe it would be factory-like,” Principal Eric Alburtus said. “Kids would come to school and as soon as the bell rang it would be a ghost town, and then when Bob came in the early 1970s, this place was never quiet.”

Knight devoted himself to bettering the youth of Portage, and there is no denying the mark that he has left on the community.

“We wear these emblems [on our jackets] and celebrate being 100 years old,” Alburtus said, discussing Portage Central’s centennial celebration. “But the reality though is that who we perceive we are as a school was far more shaped by when Bob came here 50 years ago.”

As a teacher, Knight inspired his colleagues and was someone the staff could always rely on to help them out.

Jim Schafer, a teacher and coach at Central first met Knight in 1984, and remembers that even before starting his career here he had heard all about Knight’s influence.

“At first I was expecting football, football, football, but he was so much more than that.” Schafer said. “He really had fun teaching.”

Schafer remembers that during his observation period prior to becoming a teacher, Knight would always take time after class to sit down and talk with him to ensure he was getting the most out of it.

An online petition was launched recently with the goal of renaming Portage Central’s own McCamley field after Knight.

The petition, launched by Central alum and former football player Eric Boersma, has received 2,432 signatures, and was discussed at the school board meeting on Monday Oct. 25.

While there has been a discussion on how to properly honor Knight, the renaming of McCamley is not where most are looking.

Knight and his wife Nonie watch the fireworks at the last night under the lights closing ceremony of McCamley field.

The idea was suggested to Knight himself when construction on the new McCamley stadium started in 2017, but he declined the offer.

“He was a humble guy,” Alburtus said. “I want to make sure we’re honoring him the right way.”

As information regarding remembrance services is made available to administrators, it will be shared with students and Portage community members.

At Friday night’s football game against Jackson High School, a moment of silence was held in remembrance of Knight. Mustang football players and cheerleaders wore stickers with Knight’s initials to honor him during the game, which was the first since his passing.