Experience is the best teacher, and good teachers lead to great experiences. That is the motto that longtime University of Maryland assistant equipment manager Jim Knight was told by an old friend, Ed Nietopski, who helped give him a start in the sports industry.
He spent nearly four decades in the business working with high schools, colleges and a two-year stint in the NFL with the Washington Commanders. But, he has enjoyed his nearly 20 years of work at Maryland the most.
If he were to produce a resume, the multitude of jobs he has would exceed a dozen pages. He has worked for 11 championship teams at Maryland and has seen many student-athletes grow from young freshmen to adults in the workforce.
That is what he will miss the most in retirement, which he announced in April. Seeing the multitude of alumni at Terps games. Knight sat in a chair inside of STAMP Student Union with his hands folded across his chest, content as he looked back on his career with Maryland Athletics.
“It was time,” he said with a smile. It was a movie-like smile. One that usually comes at the end when a lesson is shared or someone rides into the sunset and credits appear.
A year ago, the then 63-year-old was on a train during Thanksgiving en route to Providence, Rhode Island. He gazed out the window and reflected. He discovered something interesting there.
“When I sat down and let the train do its thing, I realized that was the first time I had a day off in eight weeks,” Knight said. “It’s time. Let somebody younger take that on.”
He seldom got days off during the year. Mid-August is crunch time to prepare locker rooms for the fall, fulfill gear orders for next season and of course, do laundry. At an institution of this magnitude, washing clothes requires a 15-gallon drum of detergent that will be empty by the end of the week.
During the summer, Knight took a one-week trip to Montana that he hopes will be a precursor to what retirement life will look like for him — lots of travel, joy rides on interstate highways and nature. He already purchased his senior pass so he can tour the national parks. Yosemite National Park in California tops his list of places to visit.
He enjoyed seeing the deer and elk roam in Montana’s fields, a much different landscape than the backdrops he worked on in the fields at the Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, the UMD golf course and the court at the Xfinity Center.
“The word that I found out about Montana is ‘majestic,’” Knight said. “It’s pure, it’s clean, the people are extremely friendly. The road has no litter. Everyone seems to have a smile on their face.”
So did Knight. He beamed with pride thinking about how his career panned out. He will miss working with Maryland’s teams and selecting new seasonal apparel. His team is part of the selection committee that picks what the student-athletes wear across campus. That is one of his favorite parts of the job.
Knight is sworn to secrecy about what the design looks like, but he told Testudo Times the basketball programs are getting brand new uniforms next season.
“Even the student-athletes don’t know so it makes it a lot of fun to say ‘Here’s your new uniform,’” Knight said.
Women’s golf head coach Kelly Hovland always smiles when she sees an Under Armour box outside her office. There’s no better feeling than new apparel.
“It’s always one of the best days of the year,” Hovland said, who described Knight as “the legend.”
Missy Meharg, head coach of Maryland field hockey, was on the interview committee that hired Knight. The two have always had a good relationship and go to dinner frequently.
“He’s a real equipment manager. If you were to ask ‘What does it mean to be an equipment manager?’ I mean, he made that profession something that it was so easily definable,” Meharg said.
She described him as being meticulous in the manner he hung uniforms and organized the locker room. Each item had its place. His top priority was making the players look good and they took notice of that.
Graduate midfielder Bibi Donraadt shared that her and Knight developed a tradition of high-fiving when the Terps entered the locker room at halftime.
“At a certain point he’d say ‘Alright, next one’s a goal for me right?’ … he’s really involved with the team and wanted the best for the girls,” Donraadt said.
Now that he has his senior pass on hand, Knight hopes to get started on that national parks list after he finishes moving apartments. He’ll be living with a good friend of 45 years and will officially celebrate his retirement with white wine.
He is not really a fan of red wine like Meharg, who looks forward to clinking glasses the next time they’ll meet.
Knight’s career aged well. It fermented over long weeks and years to the day he announced his retirement.
“I’m like a fine wine,” Knight said.