Football coach with local ties remembered fondly

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) talks with quarterback coach Greg Knapp during first quarter action against the Minnesota Vikings in the NFL game at Sports Authority Field in Denver, CO, October 4, 2015. Photo by Ben Hays.

Those who knew Seal Beach’s Greg Knapp best said he was the kind of man who drew people to him with an affable personality and an optimistic outlook on life. Knapp was a local product, having graduated from Huntington Beach High in 1983.

He went on to a standout career as quarterback at Sacramento State. He was invited to NFL training camps in years following his college playing days. But he jumped right into coaching, spending nine years coaching at his alma mater. He followed that with a 25-year NFL coaching career. He coached some of the great quarterbacks in the NFL. Knapp was set to join the New York Jets organization to help groom their new rookie QB, but a bicycle accident on July 22, would lead to his death, five days later at a hospital in Walnut Creek, according to reports.

He was rendered unconscious in the crash and never regained consciousness. His family, wife and three daughters, as well as his mother and brother were at his side when he passed. The family issued a statement upon his death, that read, in part:

“Greg Knapp (aka Knapper) was called back home to Heaven, where he will be reunited with his Dad.

Those of us who were so blessed to have known him, know that he would have wanted even this moment to be a teachable one. So this is it … ‘Live every day as if it’s your last, and love those around you like it won’t last!’

Greg’s infectious personality is most people’s first and lasting memory of him. The phrase “He never met a stranger” encapsulates Knapper’s zest for life. He had a unique gift to make everyone feel special, and to Knapper, they all were – #RIPKNAPPER.”

Knapp’s death drew condolences from some of the biggest name athletes in the NFL, who credited him with critical guidance in their careers. Matt Ryan, quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons, where Knapp spent much of his career, posted the sadness he felt on Twitter. “He was one of the most positive, consistent and caring coaches I have ever been around,” Ryan tweeted. “He made it a point to know our families and for us to know his. My heart goes out to his family. Greg made a significant impact on everyone he came into contact with and while he will be missed by so many he will never be forgotten. I’m so thankful for the time we were able to spend together.”

After graduating from Huntington Beach High, Knapp went to Sacramento State University, where he worked two years to earn the starting quarterback job in 1984. He threw for 2,083 yards and a school-record 16 touchdowns and earned honorable mention all-Northern California Athletic Conference honors.

“We are heartbroken over the loss of Greg Knapp,” Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor said. “Greg was not only a great former Hornet player and coach, but one of the kindest and most generous people that I’ve ever known. His success and humility have been an inspiration to all of us here at Sacramento State. We will continue to carry on his legacy within our football program and wish his family and friends peace and comfort through this difficult loss.”

Knapp was the quarterback coach for the Denver Broncos during their Super Bowl 50 Championship season, and in 2013, when Payton Manning threw for 5,477 yard and 55 touchdowns, both NFL records.

Tyler Polumbus, an offensive lineman on the Broncos’ Super Bowl championship team remembered Knapp for his personal connection, as much as his coaching ability.

“So sad to hear about the passing of our Super Bowl 50 QB Coach, Greg Knapp. Knapper was one of the rare coaches that every player on the team could connect with on a personal level. Incredible coach, better human being. Just a sad day,” Polumbus wrote on Twitter.