Div. II is means to King's NFL end

Essex native rates high among defensive ends

NFL draft

April 13, 1999|By MIKE PRESTON | MIKE PRESTON,SUN STAFF

Lamar King's final path to the NFL may be only 45 minutes away from his hometown of Essex, but his overall journey has taken him through several part-time jobs, a couple of missed opportunities and a Division II school named Saginaw Valley State in Michigan.

King was the first of a recent flock of college players to visit and work out for the Ravens last Monday at the team's Owings Mills training camp. King, a 6-foot-4, 290-pound defensive end, didn't fly in with the fanfare of Syracuse quarterback Donovan McNabb or North Carolina State receiver Torry Holt.

He drove in from his home in east Baltimore County, a one-time sleeper in the draft who now could go as early as the second or third round. King is on a list of offensive and defensive linemen the Ravens are interested in selecting after the first round.

King also has made visits to Tennessee, Kansas City, Atlanta, Dallas and Jacksonville. In most of the pre-draft publications he is either the second- or third-rated defensive end in college football, mentioned in the same breath as N.C. State's Ebenezer Ekuban and Virginia's Patrick Kerney.

Draft day will be a big day at the King household.

"I'm not nervous yet, but I'll start getting that way the day before," King said. "I knew you had to go through a process to get into the league, but I didn't know it would last this long. It's been a tough couple of months; the [scouting] combine, the all-star games and all these workouts. But at least all the hard work is starting to pay off.

"Essex has a reputation of being a bad place, but it's like other areas," King said. "Fortunately with me, I had a mother who made me work hard to get out and display my talent. She wanted me to get an education. I still go over to the neighborhood basketball courts and watch some of these guys shoot jumpers and dunk the ball. They should be playing basketball in college somewhere, but they don't want to push themselves in the classroom."

King had problems getting into college himself. He had always been a big kid. By the time he was 11, he was 6 feet and weighed 250 pounds. He was an outstanding fullback at Chesapeake High in Baltimore County, where he gained nearly 1,000 yards as a senior, but King didn't meet Proposition 48 academic standards.

So instead of going to a Division I school, King went to Montgomery College in Rockville. He also worked part time as a salesman at a department store and later for a textile company. After his freshman season, King grew out of the running back position and into a defensive lineman.

Nebraska wanted King; so did Towson State. But he didn't have enough credits to transfer to either. And the King family couldn't afford to send him to Nebraska to play for the Cornhuskers.

"I had a friend of mine who told me about Saginaw Valley, so I took a plane ride there, met the coaches and the players, and I felt really comfortable," he said. "A couple of people told me that if I went to a small college I wouldn't have an opportunity to play in the pros. I wanted to prove them wrong. No matter where you go, you still have to practice hard.

"If you produce on the field, they'll find you wherever you go. They don't just go to Division I schools, they go everywhere -- the CFL, semipro -- to look for players. I've always felt that on any level, the other player puts his pads on just like I do. Sooner or later, I'll move up to whatever level it takes."

King impressed the scouts his junior season. But during the off-season, some of the Detroit Lions made an impression on King. He worked night security at Saginaw Valley State, where the Lions also happen to train. Occasionally, he would talk to players on how to improve.

"Larry Tharpe told me to use my hands," King said. "I watched Robert Porcher and saw some of the techniques he had, how he moved his feet and hands. His technique is perfect. They told me speed and technique are more valuable in the league than strength."

King still needs to work on his technique. Despite 84 tackles this past season, including 12 sacks and 13 stops behind the line of scrimmage, he is still considered a raw talent even though he dominated Division II competition and battled constant double teams.

"While he was doing his damage against the likes of Grand Valley State, Ferris State, Wayne State and Michigan Tech, you have to be impressed with the way he took over games on a regular basis," said ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper. "King is quick off the ball, has excellent functional strength and the speed to chase down ball carriers 30 or 40 yards down the field. He doesn't have a lot of finesse moves, but he's a very coachable young man, humble in his approach."

Not just on the field, but off it as well. The Ravens were impressed with his soft-spoken personality and articulation. King said it all comes from his mother, Lynne, 46, whom he plans to buy a house for once he signs his first contract.

"He really loves football," said Lynne King. "He always said one day he was going to play professionally. We're excited about draft day. I'm not sleeping because of the anticipation. It seems like a lot of hard work is going to work out for Lamar."

NFL draft

When: Saturday, noon-10 p.m.* (Rounds 1-3); Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.* (Rounds 4-7) TV: ESPN (Saturday, noon-7 p.m.), ESPN2 (Saturday, 7 p.m.- conclusion); ESPN (Sunday, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.), ESPN2 (1 p.m.-conclusion)

Total selections: 253

First pick: Cleveland Browns

Ravens' picks: First round, 10th overall, second round, 42nd; fourth round, 105th, 129th; fifth round, 145th; seventh round, 216th.

Time limits per team: Round 1, 15 minutes; Round 2, 10 minutes; Rounds 3-7, 5 minutes. * -- Approximate

Pub Date: 4/13/99

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