Coach Irvin Knee was a standout athlete at Wabash High in his hometown of Wabash, Ind and then at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Ind where he excelled at football, track and field events. He was called "Tiny" because he was a formidable figure whose many Drake Relays records were unbroken during his life. He played against the Univ of Chicago football team wearing a leather helmet and slept under the stadium in the space where the creation of the atomic bomb later occurred.
Tiny Knee also coached college football in middle Tennessee and also played professional football for Clarence Saunder's Tigers. He moved to Ripley, Tn to build the athletic program and teach science courses. At Ripley he recruited laborers to build a football field and cinder track described by Tennessee sportswriters as the finest track in West Tennessee.
Coach Knee developed standout track, field and basketball programs, as well as coordinated building two public swimming pools for youth, Tiny Town kiddie park and the Tiny Knee Shack where teens could "hang out" in the 1940s right through the 60's. His was a familiar sight in his green Willy's jeep. Nearly every child in Ripley had a ride in Coach Knee's jeep and he was affectionately called Chief White Cloud by the native American community in the area. When he died in 1968, a memorial service was held at Tiny Knee Field and the stands were filled with the many men and women who paid tribute to the man who taught them lessons on succeeding, not just in athletics and sportsmanship, but in life both on and off the field.
Tiny Knee was my grandfather. Willard Rooks Helander (Brownsville, Tn native; Libertyville, IL resident)
By Richard Alley
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