Kansas Jayhawks: Catching Up With Nigel King


Oct 18, 2014; Lubbock, TX, USA; Kansas Jayhawks wide receiver Nigel King (9) during the game with the Texas Tech Red Raiders at Jones AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Nigel King loves the University of Kansas.

The graduate transfer wide receiver who spent one year with the Kansas Jayhawks after playing at the University of Maryland, doesn’t hold back when talking about his former team and the passion he saw from the fans.

“I didn’t understand it at first,” King said. “In my time being there I understood the love they have for their school. I eventually got it and understood it, and now I feel how they do about Kansas. I feel like I will be a Jayhawk forever.”

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That’s why, after hauling in 30 catches, for 537 yards, and a touchdown, it was a tough choice for King to enter the 2015 NFL Draft. However, in the end, the 6-3 wideout from Raleigh, North Carolina is at peace with his decision.

“It was a long, thought-out process,” King said. “I was on the edge of whether I wanted to leave, or whether I wanted to come back because I really wasn’t sure.”

It came down to how he felt in his heart.

“I just wanted to follow that, because I didn’t want to have any regrets.”

He doesn’t, but there were certainly some people in the social media world who thought it wasn’t the right decision, but it wasn’t their’s to make. He might not have had All-American, or even All-Big 12 Conference, numbers, but that’s not everything when it comes to making it to the NFL.

I eventually got it and understood it, and now I feel how they do about Kansas. I feel like I will be a Jayhawk forever.

“He’s just trying to be better than he was yesterday,” Sean Stellato, King’s agent, said. “He’s as focused as I’ve seen a young man trying to make the leap and transition to the National Football League.”

Off the field, Stellato said King is exactly what an NFL team is looking for when evaluating players.

“From a character standpoint, you have to remember he’s a great kid,” said Stellato. “He was raised right. His work ethic is unparalleled. Those are all key factors to the equation.”

He can make plays on the field as well. However, it didn’t happen right away this season. In King’s one year in Lawrence he went through two quarterbacks and two head coaches. It’s hard enough to adjust to a new team, but when two important positions are changed, four games in, it makes matters worse.

Once junior Michael Cummings settled in as the starting quarterback, King found his stride. In Cummings first start, a Sept. 4 loss at West Virginia, King had his best game at the time. His four catches for 52 yards weren’t eye-popping, but it was the start of a streak that was.

That game marked the first of six in a row where King caught a pass of at least 30 yards. Throw in the Texas game the week before, and he had seven games in a row with a catch of at least 25 yards.

For the season, King averaged 17.9 yards per reception, which was 32nd in the country. Amari Cooper, the first wide receiver projected to be drafted this year, averaged 13.9.

“I think this year at Kansas I was able to show I have big-play ability,” King said. “I definitely feel like that is a strength.”

Everyone who saw him play Nov. 15 against TCU, or watches ESPN, knows that’s true. His 78-yard circus catch for a touchdown in a near-upset of the then No. 4 Horned Frogs, earned King the second spot on the day’s SportsCenter Top-10 list. King finished the day with five catches for 128 yards.

He said he remembers everything leading up to the catch, even the play call, but initially had no idea it could go for a score.

“My thought in my head was, “Why did Mike [Cummings] throw this ball?,” King said with a laugh.  “I never gave up on the play. I remember tipping the ball to myself, and after that it was just kind of a blur once I scored.”

That catch alone isn’t going to get King to the NFL, yet in today’s digital world, where thousands saw the play within minutes on social media, it certainly helps people remember his name.

When he plays in the Gridiron Classic Jan. 31 in Dallas, he will surely be reminded of the catch. However, it will be his play in the game that will hopefully have NFL scouts remembering his name.

Stellato said two scouts from all 32 NFL teams will be there. If he plays well, he could get an invite to the NFL Combine Feb. 17-23. His NFL Pro Day is set for March 25.

“He is going to have to treat that like it’s his Olympic trials,” Stellato said.

Those are three great opportunities to showcase his talent, which, Stellato agreed, for some players, can mean more than how they performed in college.

“A lot of it comes down to the system you are in,” he said. “He is a diamond in the rough. I think he has tremendous upside. He is going to be a hidden gem for someone, if he’s in the right system.”

For now, King said he is taking it one day at a time. In order to impress the scouts at those events, he’s in Florida working out twice per day, six days per week. He’s not focused on where he will or won’t be going in the draft, only on getting stronger, and better.

“Before I came here I didn’t have any idea where I might land or anything like that,” King said. ” It really doesn’t matter, you just get one team to fall in love with you. Hopefully I have more than that, but I just came down here to workout. I don’t really want to know much about it.”

It was a great experience. I met a lot of new people. I’ve never been that far away from home, so it was new for me. I loved it

King isn’t looking in the rear view mirror, that is, unless he’s thinking back on his fond time in Lawrence. He said he’ll miss The Burger Stand, passionate KU fans, and will never forget his amazing catch.

“I always get asked, ‘What was better, Maryland or Kansas,'” King said.  “I can’t say which one was better, but I definitely enjoyed my time out there [in Lawrence].”

Wherever he ends up, he has a slew of new fans in the Midwest.

“It was a great experience. I met a lot of new people,” King said. “I’ve never been that far away from home, so it was new for me. I loved it.”

Next: Kansas Jayhawks: Ben Heeney Named to ESPN Top-25 Big 12 Team

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