EIGHT MILE, Ala. — JaMarcus King didn’t want to go back to Coffeyville, Kansas.
On July 17, 2014, King’s mother lost a battle with ovarian cancer, while he was home from his first semester at Coffeyville Community College.
“I wasn’t going to play football anymore. I was going to stay home and help my sisters,” King said, “But they told me to leave.”
Blount High School offensive coordinator Alonzo Johnson did the same thing.
“He always told me to go to school and do what your mom wanted you to do,” King said.
So he continued to chase the dream.
“The first game was on her birthday, my first JUCO game was on her birthday, so I’ve played for her since then,” King said.
His decision to return to Coffeyville helped set him on a path to Columbia, to play football at South Carolina. The decision could, potentially, set King up for a life in the NFL.
Johnson, who played wide receiver in the NFL for three years, likes King’s chances.
“I think he has great potential of being a great defensive back in the SEC, and the opportunity to go to the next level with his height and size, that’s pretty much what the NFL is getting to nowadays,” Johnson said.
It would be quite the accomplishment, considering King was primarily a wide receiver during his four years at Blount.
Two years ago, when he arrived to Coffeyville Community College, he was immediately moved to cornerback. There was quite a learning curve for King, who’d played about 10 snaps at the position in high school.
“I wasn’t going to redshirt, so I had to learn,” King said. “The coach was a good coach, (James Colzie) played at Florida State (and) he played a couple of years in the league. He taught me, since you’re long just get your hands on them at the line.”
The tip paid huge dividends. King picked up several notable offers out of Coffeyville, including Auburn, Arkansas and Baylor. Last summer, he committed to play at Auburn, for defensive coordinator Will Muschamp.
That pledge lasted for about three months.
“It was just to open it back up, to see what else I could get. I didn’t want to close it down, because it might not be the right decision,” King said.
Once King was ready to make his final decision, Muschamp was the head coach at South Carolina. Muschamp’s steady line of communication throughout the fall helped the Gamecocks in their late push.
“He’d say the same thing every time we’d get on the phone, ‘You know we need you, don’t you?’ He’d say, ‘Looking forward to you,’” King said. “And he’d say, ‘You have a bright future.’”
Indeed he does.
“In high school, he had no off the field issues,” Johnson said. “That’s one of the biggest things when coaching JaMarcus. He did well, successful in the classroom, but the biggest thing was off the field. We never had a problem.”
Now enrolled at South Carolina, King has an opportunity to win a cornerback spot in the Gamecocks’ starting secondary.
“You’re really not going to out-work him,” Johnson said. “That’s the biggest thing, he has that drive. He’s always in that competition mode … he’s determined to be the best at whatever he does.”