The game was a day away, and Marquette King was worried.
He was about 2,200 miles from home and playing with NFL prospects from places like Miami, Wisconsin, LSU, Auburn, Nebraska and Virginia Tech, to name a few.
“The smog,” King said. “I have to calm down. I can’t jump around like I want to.”
One of the nation’s most athletic punters on any level, the former Fort Valley State standout wanted everything to be right when he hoped to showcase his skills in Saturday’s National Football Players Association Collegiate Bowl all-star game in south Los Angeles.
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The air didn’t clear up, but it didn’t bother King, who had attention-getting practices before following through with a quality performance in the game that now has his name on more and more NFL prospect lists.
The Rutland graduate punted five times and averaged 41.3 yards, including a 50-yarder after which he was able to display his happiness en route to the sidelines.
“I’m satisfied,” he said. “I did what I was supposed to do.”
NBC Sports Network announcers pointed out that King had drawn attention during the week’s practices with booming punts that regularly hung in the air for an above-average five seconds.
He got attention immediately from National team head coach Dick Vermeil, who was surprised King didn’t have an agent. The sound from King’s foot pounding punts had those on the sidelines stopping their conversations to watch.
“The guy from the NFLPA was like, ‘Man, you won’t do that again,’ ” King said. “Then, ‘Bet you can’t do it again. ... I bet you can’t do it a third time.’ ”
Vermeil was impressed enough to share his contact information with King, who said that talk has started that he could earn an invitation to the NFL Combine. That’s in late February in Indianapolis, and there are now eight regional combines starting on Jan. 28 with one in Atlanta as well as Tampa, Fla..
A website covering the Jacksonville Jaguars raved about his week, saying, “King was booming 50-60 yard punts over and over with plenty of hang time. He had no problem angling them towards the sideline either. Some on the sidelines were joking that he was the top performer of the day. ...”
And after the game, it wrote, “Marquette King had easily one of the more impressive weeks out of any prospect there as he continuously turned heads every time he boomed a 50-60-yard punt with tons of hang time. There’s something incredibly impressive about watching a punt turn over in the air while in a tight spiral and King made it look routine.
“During the game he blasted a 40 yarder that landed on the opposing nine yard line and bounced back a yard and followed with a 50 yard punt that had no return due to the hang time that forced a fair catch”
The oddity of the NFLPA game was that no NFL scouts were allowed to attend practices because juniors were invited, but King inspired a buzz in practice and the game.
His first punt went 35 yards but was downed at the 10. He followed with boots of 45, 50, 46 and 39 yards, with two fair catches and two returns totaling 12 yards.
King is known for his hard work, even during his FVSU career going out to the field after home games and working out. His current routine is to punt for an hour or two, then go to the weight room.
He’s taking 12 hours this semester at FVSU and has about two semesters left to graduate. Finding an agent is next on his to-do list.
His performance in last month’s HBCU all-star game in Atlanta got the attention of James Guidry of the NFLPA and thus the invite to the bigger stage Saturday, which King conquered, as well.
He could only laugh when recalling his disappointment and worries about the future after the Wildcats’ season ended in November
“I was like, ‘I wonder what’s going to happen,’ ” he said. “All of a sudden, the HBC bowl invite came up. That was an opportunity. After that, I was like, ‘OK, I wonder what’s next.’
“I never thought I’d be in L.A. Dang. It’s just crazy.”