BY KAYLA JOHNSON theundefeated.com
He’s different. But, you know, the good kind of different. The kind of different that keeps you guessing, makes you want to know more. The kind of different that looks at challenges not as challenges, but as an opportunity to prove “them” wrong. The different with a personality that demands the room without being demanding. Different that doesn’t beg to be understood, while unapologetically being himself.
The first impression of Marquette might lead you to believe that he is this outspoken, silly, fun-loving, larger than life, celebrate-when-I-want, turn up King. (Sorry, the reference was there for the taking.)
However, growing up, the discouragement from some of his coaches as well as a naturally shy personality meant he wasn’t always who he knew he could be.
“I wanted to be the person that people wanted me to be instead of the person that I am,” King told The Undefeated. “And I think that I had problems with it. I started struggling.”
Now, King wasn’t always a punter. He began his college career at Fort Valley State, a historically black college in Georgia, as a wide receiver. His transition to punter wasn’t so much a life choice as it was the result of a strong suggestion to focus on punting. A suggestion to kick or his scholarship would be in question.
With no technique or any kind of formal training, just a natural ability to send the ball flying, King discovered his kicking talent as a young kid bored in his backyard. He was also the best option for a punter the team had. So King decided not only take on the responsibility, but to make this position his own.
“When [the coach] threatened to take my scholarship away from me to focus on being a punter I was like, ‘All right, well, if you want to take my scholarship away from me, well, I’m [going to] find a way to make this position look fun,’ ” King said. “So in college, going until now, I’m going to find a way to make this position fun. And I guess I finally did.”
Not only did he make a vow, he was able to use punting as a release. What had seemed to be a forced transfer was now King’s therapy.
“If we lost a game, I would talk to the campus police officers to leave the lights on at the stadium,” King said. “I’d go to my dorm room, bring my boom box back out, play music and I’d just kick until my leg got so tired that I couldn’t kick a ball no more … that was my therapy.
“If anything ever went on in my life, or whatever I was thinking about … I’d just go punt. … Punting was my way of getting away.”
And that therapy led to not only confidence in his game, but the confidence to stop allowing people to lock up the real Marquette King. And because of that, fans across the country are able to reap the benefits of knowing that when King steps on the field, they’re getting a show.
Now here is how that might define the stereotype of a punter:
Stereotype No. 1: They aren’t black. And as the only black punter in the NFL, King’s experience did include jokes, and not just the playful type.
“All those people made fun of me before, but at the end all the motivation and the hard work and determination that I put into what I do, I won at the end. … Some of [the players] were so much bigger than me, so much stronger than me, I couldn’t retaliate physically, so, all right, I’m going to let you talk s— to me right now, but I’m [going to] win. You know why? Because I got the mindset and the motivation to do what you can’t do.”
Stereotype No. 2: It doesn’t take much to be a punter. Anyone can do it.
“When you see African-American kids, they’re usually the ones that play receiver, cornerback and all that. The positions that show physical ability. Well, if you think about it, physical ability is shown when you punt and kick a ball,” King said. “It’s more of a skill. So if you’re mentally strong, I think that shows a lot too. It takes a lot of mental and physical [strength] to punt and kick a ball. A lot of people can’t do that.”
Stereotype No. 3: A punter is supposed to go out on the field, do what needs to be done, and leave. It’s almost as if it’s a robotic routine. A be seen, not heard sort of thing.
“I had a coach that was trying to tell me ‘you don’t need to celebrate,’ like, ‘just punt the ball and walk off.’ I’m like, ‘Walk off?! What you mean, walk off?’ All this effort I put into it I deserve to [celebrate].
“When a DB goes out and backpedals and breaks a pass block and starts doing all that ‘No, he didn’t catch the ball’-type motion … and a receiver catches the ball and gets a first down and goes out there pointing and dancing … I should be able to do the same thing. Who’s going tell me not to?” King said.
“If [someone] comes up to me and tells me that I can’t do that … it’s going to be a problem. You know why? Because I’m not a normal punter,” King said to The Undefeated. “But you know what? Nobody’s ever told me they had a problem with it and they’re not because … I’m doing my job.”
So shattering these stereotypes is King’s specialty. And fortunately for King, his Raiders special teams coach Brad Seely has been a godsend.
“Brad Seely is one of the best special teams coaches I’ve ever had. … He’s like the godfather of special teams,” King said. “It’s a blessing. Man, because … he used to get on my nerves to the point to where I wanted to fight him because he was always talkin’ s—, but that’s what I need.
“It feels so good to have a coach that understands me.”
And their cohesiveness shows beyond special teams. So far, King and the Raiders have silenced a lot of doubters this season. Despite “the ultimate MVP” in his eyes, Derek Carr, getting injured, King knows that everyone has to step up and execute his job at the highest level if they want to be true Super Bowl contenders. But just how King lives his life, he takes the path to the Super Bowl one step at a time.
“One play at a time, one game at a time,” King said. “When I wake up in the morning, I wake up looking like, ‘Thank God I made it to the next day, because there’s some people that didn’t wake up today.’ But then after that, all right, what am I going to do to be a better punter today? That’s my mood.”
And while King takes on his life one day at a time and is determined to enjoy every moment, he wants others to enjoy the same jubilance he experiences every day.
“I like to make other people’s day. … You might catch [someone] that might want to kill somebody today, but you walk up to them and you’re like, ‘How’s your day going?’ … You know, then you crack a joke … [they] might not want to kill [that someone] today. … You never know.”
So, yes, we know what he does. He’s a football player, lover of music, and a natural comedian among his friends, but who is Marquette King? Someone who is not influenced by what’s going on around him and a man who desires to spread light to everyone he meets. To put it simply, here is how he believes life should be:
“Everybody being themselves and not worrying about what other people think about them. … It’s just loving one another. Encouraging one another. And being positive.”