WACO, Texas — Jim Knox has ridden elephants in Lubbock, Texas, run with the buffalo in Boulder, Colo., and sat shotgun on a covered wagon in Norman, Okla.
Knox, the sideline reporter for Fox Sports Network's College Football, doesn't limit himself to injury updates and halftime interviews that have become the customary duties of that position. Instead he immerses himself in the pageantry and traditions that make college football fun.
“He doesn’t always want to do just the easy, normal way,” Knox’s producer Robert Steinfeld said. “He does do good reporting when he needs to do it, but he’s trying to add some color to the game, and that makes it a little bit different … he’s also got a little bit of a daredevil in him.”
Both of those sides of Knox were easy to see during the first quarter of Saturday’s Missouri-Baylor game in Waco.
During the pregame, hundreds of Baylor freshmen line up in the south end zone of Floyd Casey Stadium and then sprint to the other end of the field to create a human tunnel for the team to enter the field. At the risk of getting trampled by the mass of humanity, Knox lines up at the front, and leads the charge while yelling into his microphone.
It creates a unique pregame scene for Fox Sports, one that Knox says adds a lot to the overall telecast.
“It’s much more than just X’s and O’s coming at you,” Knox said. “It’s entertainment.”
Minutes after the run, Baylor superstar Robert Griffin III limps off the field with an apparent injury. Knox rushes his camera crew near where Griffin is sitting on the Baylor bench and hurriedly sets up a live shot.
After he gets the go ahead from the producers in the truck, Knox closes his eyes, tries unsuccessfully to fix what the Texas wind has done to his hair and wipes his face with his hand.
Then, boom, he’s back on national television. He’s no longer the zany goofball. Now he’s the guy trying to give insight on a potential Heisman Trophy candidate’s condition for the rest of the game.
He handles both in stride. After what happened a year ago at Colorado, Knox can handle most anything in stride.
When the Fox Sports crew visits Folsom Field in Boulder, it is Knox’s custom to run with Colorado’s mascot, Ralphie, a live buffalo that does a lap around the field before the game.
Knox had done it before multiple times, but this time one of Ralphie’s handlers had it out for him. As Knox and the buffalo made the turn at the 30-yard line, a Colorado student lined Knox up for a block.
Knox saw him a split second before impact and was able to at least turn his body enough to avoid getting completely blown up by the hit. He still went hard to the turf, much to the amusement of both the announcers in the booth and the producers in the truck.
“The guys upstairs are dying laughing, and the guys in the booth are dying laughing,” Knox said. “All I’m thinking is that I have to get up and interview the coach. I don’t have time to lay here and play hurt.”
He still remembers the incident.
So do fans.
“Was that easier than Ralphie?” a man on the Baylor sideline yells to Knox after his run Saturday.
“Way easier,” Knox says, nodding.
What makes Knox unique as much of his sense of the ridiculous is his sense of the moment.
While driving a golf cart to record a pregame shot for Saturday’s game, Knox notices someone he thinks he recognizes. He pulls up next to him.
“You played basketball right?” Knox says
The man nods.
“Who are you?”
“Mamadou,” the man responds.
It’s Mamadou Diene, a 7-foot-1-inch center who played for Baylor from 2005-2009.
“Come on, let’s go,” he says, motioning Diene toward where he will set up his shot with the Baylor cheerleaders.
A couple of minutes later, Knox is directing his cameraman toward his next move.
He begins the shot by talking to the cheerleaders, then throws the football to Diene.
“A new wide receiver for the Bears, Mamadou!” he says.
Then, in an unscripted twist, after Diene spikes the football in front of the camera, Knox tackles him to the ground. They both laugh hysterically.
It will make for 20 seconds of entertaining television. It will also probably look like it was set up days before instead of minutes.
“He’s an entertainer,” Steinfeld said. “I think when you’re producing a telecast, you’re in show business, and show business is entertainment.”
As the wind picks up during the first quarter, Knox, with that sense for the moment again, borrows a wig from a young boy in the front row.
“Can I borrow your hat real quick?” he asks.
The boy happily obliges.
Seconds later, Knox throws the wig into the air, and it blows five or six feet behind him.
He returns the wig to the child afterward. The boy smiles, and Knox pats him on the back.
Knox has another fan.
He smiles as he returns to the sideline, but not for long. Pretty soon, it’s back to regular reporting duties.
“Let’s keep an eye on Casey,” he says, referencing a Baylor defensive back icing his knee on the sideline.
Off he runs with his camera crew.
Another football Saturday for Jim Knox.