In his first year, Penn State recruit Justin King was like his fellow recruitees Derrick Williams, Deion Butler and Jordan Norwood: Gods on Campus.
To say that the new recruits were “much-heralded” on State College would be to say that Joe Paterno is “kinda liked” in that part of the world – a huge understatement.
King doesn’t let us know, pulling some electrifying catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns – as well as putting up over 200 yards rushing. Oh, and he played some defense too, pulling out 11 tackles.
The kids on campus took to the likeable King quickly, wearing No.7 jerseys with pride- thankfully forgetting the last person who wore the shirt – former QB Zach Mills.
Realising he might ‘have something’ as a cornerback – and my gosh, he did, he then played his next two seasons in ‘D’, rocking out 79 tackles and 3 interceptions. Unfortunately, the Nittany Lions disappointed making the Outback and Alamo Bowls.
King then made a decision that I’m still trying to understand: going to the NFL.
King was a corner who could have been fantastic given a little more time. During his time at PSU, he was just ‘great’- but nothing mind-blowing. As a wide receiver, he could have been destructive too – the second coming of former Ohio State Chris Gamble, perhaps.
He freaked people out, doing a 40 at lightning speed, and then injured himself before the 2008 season.
Now? He’s working with the St Louis Rams as a nickelback.
Personally, I’d rather King had forgone the NFL for one more year. Maybe he would have been the key that would have seen the Lions beat Iowa on the road. Maybe he would have kept up with the USC receivers in the Rose Bowl. Maybe he wouldn’t have faced USC – he may have played against Florida.
And a big, stronger, faster King would have come to the NFL as an even higher pick – and made more money than a fourth round player with injuries.
But if King's a success in 2008 and helps to pull St Louis out of the mire, then we'll be seeing King for a ton of Sundays to come.