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Greg Knapp was the quarterbacks coach for the Texans when Houston drafted T.J. Yates in the 2011 NFL Draft. The two instantly connected and Knapp soon became not only a mentor to Yates, but a brother and friend. After years as an offensive coordinator and assistant coach for the Falcons, Raiders, Broncos and many other NFL teams, Knapp tragically lost his life in the summer of 2021 after being struck by a vehicle while riding his bike near his California home.

This year, Yates - the Falcons wide receivers coach - will honor Knapp's life and legacy for the NFL's annual My Cause My Cleats initiative by participating in a stair climb and donning designed shoes during the Falcons Week 13 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Story by Ashton Edmunds

To know Greg Knapp was to love him.

The former NFL coach was a titan, a larger-than-life human, and a luminary to many. But, most importantly, he was a man of faith and integrity, someone who cherished every moment with his loved ones.

That, in essence, was Knapp. He made you feel loved, seen and important even if he didn't know you personally. Those closest to him would echo that same sentiment.

Knapp tragically passed away on July 22, 2021, at the age of 58, after being struck by a driver while riding his bicycle. The incident happened on July 17, and kept him in the hospital for five days before he passed. Knapp is survived by his beloved wife Charlotte and his three daughters: Natalie, Camille, and Jordan.

In his honor, Charlotte, along with Knapp's agent and close friend Jeff Sperbeck, started The Coach Knapp Memorial Fund to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving and help reduce the number of distracted driving related deaths.

"Honestly, our goal is to have as many people as possible hear our message about the epidemic of distracted driving," Charlotte Knapp said. "It takes just a short amount of time for such devastation to happen and that's the message that I want people to hear.

"That's the goal of this. Having access to the NFL platform is such a gift so to not use it would be a terrible waste and so this is where we start. This is our pilot year, and we hope to bring awareness every year in other formats and other platforms, but this is where we're starting."

T.J. Yates is committed to amplifying that message.

The Falcons' wide receivers coach and former NFL quarterback will be honoring Knapp's life and legacy by participating in a stair climb while also donning designed shoes during the Falcons Week 13 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday, Dec. 4 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

"There are hundreds and thousands of people that he had an impact on," Yates said ardently. "Every single organization he's been to, he's been beloved by everybody. Every player, staff member, person working in the lunchroom, whatever it is. So, obviously to try to honor him in the NFL arena is super, super important."

Knapp was the Texans' quarterbacks coach when Houston drafted Yates in 2011. Due to the NFL lockout that same year, Yates didn't officially meet Knapp in-person for a couple of months.

"We basically had a phone relationship for the first however many months because he was basically teaching me the offense," Yates said. "This was before zoom and all that stuff. They mailed me the playbook and he'd call me, and we would go over the pictures one-by-one."

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Once the two were finally able to work together in-person, the former Texans quarterback credits Knapp for teaching him the ropes during his rookie campaign.

"He taught me everything about the NFL game," Yates said. "He taught me the NFL offense, and even though I was just a rookie quarterback and we had two other guys that were in front of me, he treated us all like starters. He quizzed us all, he made sure all of us were going to be 100 percent prepared. He taught me, obviously, so much stuff about football, but then other stuff about life and he was just an all-time genuine just awesome dude and had such an infectious energy."

And if you ask Sarah Hogan, who was a dear friend to Knapp and the Falcons' assistant director of coaching operations, she will keenly say the same thing.

"His personality was larger-than-life," she said. "He had all these awesome life experiences and would always rope them into his conversations with people, but he wasn't a guy that would rub anything in your face. It was just the way he treated everybody. He literally would be like, 'Hey, can you print me off a headshot sheet,' because he wanted to learn everyone's name in the building. Just the fact that he showed so much interest in everybody, it didn't matter who it was."

This speaks to why Knapp had such a fruitful coaching career in the NFL, one that spanned 25 years, including stops with the San Francisco 49ers, Atlanta Falcons, the then-Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, Houston Texans, Denver Broncos and New York Jets.

When Yates made the transition to become a coach following the end his NFL career, that's when he felt his relationship with Knapp really take off.

"I'd call him for advice on anything, and then especially when I was thinking about going into coaching, he kind of mentored me into that role and talked to me about all the little things you have to be ready for going into it," Yates said. "He was definitely a guy that I leaned on when I made the decision to go into coaching.

"Then when I got into it, especially with my transition coming (to Atlanta), we talked a bunch that year because he was in a transition year as well. The whole staff got fired in Houston and I'm calling for advice on interviews and what to do here. He never stopped mentoring me. Player, coach, friend… I can talk about the guy for a million years."

Knapp's mentorship spanned across the league. During his career, he helped to develop Hall of Fame quarterbacks including Peyton Manning and Steve Young and won Super Bowl 50 with Manning in 2015.

In 2006 as offensive coordinator for the Falcons, Knapp helped Michael Vick become the first quarterback in NFL history to have 1,000-plus rushing yards in one season. Not to mention, Jeff Garcia, Vick, Manning, and Young all made it to the Pro Bowl a total of 11 times collectively under Knapp's leadership.

From 2018 through 2020, Matt Ryan accumulated a total of 13,971 passing yards, which was a league-best, under Knapp's guidance.

That consistency as a coach spilled over into what he did before every game, which was running the stadium's steps whether it was a home or away game. Every player and coach knew they could find Knapp in the stands getting in a workout before all the action started.

"In his 25-year career, he always did that," Yates said.

Knapp was a true one-of-one in dedicating his life to the game of football. A giant amongst a league that naturally encapsulated greatness, and a trailblazer that paved a way for so many. That was Knapp.

"He's just one of those kinds of people," Yates said, "that had that impression on every single person he came across."

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