For the last three seasons, Ryan King saw only limited action as the backup behind Vandy's All-SEC left tackle Justin Geisinger. He relieved Geisinger in the second half of the Commodores' 2003 victory over Kentucky, and started two games in 2004 when Geisinger went down with an injury.
Now entering his fifth year with the team and his final year of eligibility, King has emerged as the most likely candidate to step into Geisinger's vacated spot. As the left tackle, it's now up to King to protect quarterback Jay Cutler's blind side in passing situations.
"Ryan King has really stepped up," said Vandy head coach Bobby Johnson. "I'm very pleased with Ryan. He's a senior who is showing a lot of leadership out there."
King is one of two Vanderbilt players who have already been awarded their undergraduate diplomas (Kelechi Ohanaja is the other). The Cincinnati native is working toward a Master of Education degree at Peabody in the area of Organizational Leadership.
VandyMania: Ryan, it's the last time around for you-- it's your fifth year. You've been around a long, long time, and it looks as though this is finally going to be the year in which you're going to play quite a bit. You've got to be excited.
Senior offensive lineman Ryan King: Yeah, it's my last rodeo! I've been behind some really great players for a while now. I'm really excited to finally make a major, major contribution to this team. I think we've got a great squad this year, and I'm really excited to be a part of it.
VM: You've always been really tall, but obviously you've put on some pounds since you've been here. How much were you when you started, and how much are you now?
Ryan: When I first got to Vanderbilt, I weighed about 270 pounds. I weigh around 320 right now. So I've put on around 50 pounds. I attribute that mostly to the great strength and conditioning program we have here. Coach John Sisk and his staff are really great, really smart about knowing how to build the athletes we have here. We're lucky to have them, and I would attribute all my growth and all my success on the football field to them and to our offseason training.
VM: You were very close to Justin Geisinger, Brian Kovolisky, Kenan Arkan and a bunch of others who are gone now. They were your old mentors and upperclassmen, and now suddenly you're the old man on the line. How's that working out?
Ryan: That's true. It's different, a totally different experience. Trey Holloway, Nigel Seaman and I are the senior members on the offensive line. We've got a really good group of linemen this year. It's really nice to have all these freshmen coming in. I've just been trying to think back to when I was a freshman and went through camp, and that can be really hard sometimes. So I just try to help them out any way I can. We just try to be in a leadership position, Trey and I, try and mentor the younger guys along.
VM: Do you feel like the depth this year is better than it has been?
Ryan: Absolutely, definitely. We've added more players, but the big thing is that we've really gotten better. Every single person has gotten better. There are so many guys on this offensive line that are capable of playing and playing well. Coach Caldwell [offensive line coach] is really excited to have all of us and to be able to give the starters some rest when need be. And you know what, depth will really help you out. That's the problem we've had as an offensive line, and even as a team, in the past. Our first team is made up of great athletes, but our second string maybe slows down a little bit. That's not the way it's going to be this year. We've got a great squad all the way around, and we're planning to make some things happen.
VM: If you had to give us one or two reasons why you think Vandy's offense will be better this year, what would you say?
Ryan: The first reason has to be Jay Cutler. He's an outstanding athlete, a great quarterback. He's in his final year of college football. It's his last go-round too, so we're lucky to have him. He's going to lead this team. And the second reason is the way these running backs have been performing. I've been tremendously impressed with the way these running backs have been stepping up, making things happen. We moved Steven Bright over to fullback, and we've just got so many athletes, so many weapons that it's going to be tough to stop us, I think. We're very confident, and excited to see what's going to happen.
VM: You have already received a Vanderbilt diploma, correct?
Ryan: That's true. I'm lucky in the fact that I already have my degree from Vanderbilt, and I have the opportunity to go to one of the best graduate schools in the entire world. I still get to play football, and in a way I'm still getting paid for it. So I'm one of the luckiest guys you'll ever come across. I just can't even explain how lucky I am to be part of Vanderbilt University. It was a great undergraduate program first of all, and second of all I'm lucky enough to attend grad school for my Master's.
Photos by Brent Wiseman, Copyright 2005 for VandyMania.com.