Ray Guy. Shane Lechler. Sebastian Janikowski. The Oakland Raiders know how to find guys who can kick the leather off of the football, but now they may have just found someone who could revolutionize the kicking game entirely.
With two awe inspiring videos this training camp, Marquette King has once again put his name through NFL circles as the man who is tapped by the Raiders organization to replace one of the best punters in history in Shane Lechler. Blessed with a big boot that can send 87 yard punts into the sky, King is special because he doesn’t look like a punter. Instead he looks like an athlete.
Built more like an NFL defensive back, King uses that athleticism to punish the football, releasing booming kicks at will. Anything short distance is almost too easy for King, who comes from Fort Valley State University and is one of only two current African American punters in the NFL.
Yet his color and trailblazing potential as a black punter aside, King is an unique and gifted player for the position that is often filled with guys who don’t look like football players. King has the skill of a punter with the power of a football player, which is largely why he is such an intriguing prospect and someone who can revolutionize a position that has rarely seen guys who are both world class athletes and gifted kickers.
Unlike Sebastian Janikowski or Lechler, King started out as a wide receiver in high school in the small town of Macon. Georgia before moving on to play football at the HBCU school in FVSU where he started from the nothing, taking something he figured out he was good at while screwing around punting balls before practice all the way to the NFL.
In his senior year at FVSU, King was the leader in the SIAC in punting. During the 2011 season, King led the Conference in punting with a 43 yard average, with 21 punts landing inside the 20-yard-line. Sixteen of those punts were for 50 yards or more. He was named his team’s most valuable player, showing the special talent that he is.
Those HBCU roots have given King a chip on his shoulder, something he says gives him an extra edge. In a feature with the Raiders website King mentioned that his experiences prepared him for coming into the league as an undrafted free agent because he knew how to work hard and be humble, knowing how to make something out of nothing and being in an atmosphere where everyone was trying to start from the bottom of the ladder. “Playing at Fort Valley State, there was a lot of adversity,” said King. “We didn’t have the same things that Division I colleges had. We basically had to make something out of nothing so we used what we had. I kind of had fun making something out of nothing because when you actually get what you need out here and when you go against somebody that’s always had what they needed to prepare, by the time you get it, after what you’ve been through, it’s easy, very easy compared to what they do.”
Last year King was Shane Lechler’s understudy, something that he and everyone in Raider Nation is counting on making him the next elite punter in Raiders history. King said working with Lechler showed him how important consistency is to being a high level punter. “He taught me a little that can do a lot,” said King. “Basically, you have to force yourself and have the discipline to go out there and do everything that you’ve been taught consistently and repeatedly.”
That consistency is going to be the key as Chris Kluwe and King battle for the Raiders starting job during camp. King’s upside clearly makes him a fan favorite, but the veteran Kluwe being brought in shows that Dennis Allen may not be 100% confident that his blue chip punting prospect is ready for the big time yet.
Still, King did perform quite well against the Cowboys during last year’s preseason game as you can see from the above video. The kid has immense talent and brings something new to the game, something that he embraces and wants to bring to a position that often can be dismissed by football fans as a specialty position for guys who aren’t actually football players. “When I watch the NFL, I just feel like I can try to bring my own style to the game,” King explained. “Being able to be athletic, if coach needs me to run a fake punt or make a tackle in the game, be more aggressive. Coming from an HBCU, I learned a lot. It taught me to be myself. Just bring my own style to the game really. I go out there with a towel, sleeves, look good, play good, and bring my own flavor to the game and let other people know that kickers and punters are athletic and we’re football players too. We put pads on like everybody else.”
Those words were followed by another bold statement.
“Turn up. Get your popcorn ready.”
If everything goes right during training camp, there will be a lot more popcorn moments for Marquette King in 2013. And not just on YouTube.