Gateway star has 20 offers

Multi-talented Justin King is one of the top prospects in the country. The speedster has already received 20 offers from some of the top schools in the country. When does he expect to make a decision?

Name: Justin King
Position: DB-WR-RB
Height: 6-0
Weight: 180 pounds
40 Speed: 4.24 seconds
Hometown/School: Monroeville, Pa. (Gateway HS)

With twenty offers in hand, Justin King is widely recognized as the top Pennsylvania prep football prospect for the upcoming football season. Justin had a great junior season, rushing for almost 1,800 yards on 214 carries and scoring 31 touchdowns. Despite the impressive offensive statistics, many consider him a better college prospect at cornerback. King is coached by his stepfather, former Penn State wide receiver Terry Smith. Lion News recently talked to Smith about his talented stepson.

Where is Justin most likely to play in college?

Terry told us, "The majority of teams are looking at him at cornerback and being like a third-down receiver where they can get the ball into his hands and he could make some things happen. Some teams like Ohio State are looking at him at tailback." Does Justin have a preference? "He just wants to play."

King's incredible speed (4.24-second 40-yard dash timed at Ohio State) is one of his principal assets. We joked with Smith that Justin must have had a bad day at last year's Nike camp where he "only" recorded a 4.29.

Smith proceeded to tell us how fast Justin was even on an off day. "Last year I took him on a tour of six schools (Penn State, Maryland) and he worked out at all six back-to-back-to-back all the way through and the last school was Maryland and he ran a 4.41 on the last day after all those workouts. That was on his worst day. He was dead tired that day."

Pretty much every school who has reviewed Justin's tapes has offered him a scholarship. Among the schools who have offered and which are showing the greatest interest are Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State, Florida, Notre Dame, USC and Georgia. Smith was asked whether Internet reports showing Michigan as King's leader were true?

"The lead I would say would be between Penn State, Michigan and USC. It's still too early to say it would be one of them, but right now those three would be in the lead," Smith said. "He's open to everyone. Come June he's going to narrow it down to 10 or 12 schools."

Is there any chance King will decide early? "He won't make that (decision) until sometime during his senior season. He wants to take all five visits. Seeing what happened with (Anthony) Morelli and Andrew Johnson, he wants to make sure it's the right decision whenever he makes it." Chuckling, Terry added, "He doesn't want to get any bad press."

We asked Smith how many times Justin has been to Michigan. He told us, "He's camped there, and then he went to the Michigan-Notre Dame game and then junior day, so three trips. He really likes them. They've been the most active school recruiting him. Coach (Lloyd) Carr has come down already to the school back in January. Three or four different assistant coaches have come down. All the different coaches that possibly would coach Justin, the running back coach, the receivers coach, the defensive backs coach and the quarterback coach, Coach (Scot) Loeffler, who is the one that's actually recruiting him. They've been real active. There's a strong interest in Michigan. They have a lot to offer and they're one of the schools he's really looking into."

And how many visits to Penn State? "He went up to the Penn State-Wisconsin game," Smith said.  "He camped at Penn State the last three years. He's probably been there double digit times the last three or four years."

We asked Smith about Penn State's recruitment of Justin. "It's been pretty strong," he said. "He just received a hand written letter from Coach (Joe) Paterno that was a really nice letter. It was clear and it mapped out how they saw Justin fitting into their future plans. (Defensive coordinator) Tom Bradley and (defensive backs coach) Brian Norward have done a tremendous job getting him information and staying on top of him. Justin is on their priority list and if you look at their depth chart they are in need of skill players. Depth-chart wise, there's a good situation there."

Terry compared Michigan's recruiting with that of Penn State. "The difference in Penn State is that Justin is really familiar with Penn State. He already knows a lot of the things that he's just learning about Michigan. They (Penn State) are doing everything in their power to get him as well. They send him tons of mail and hand written letters. They've already called me to set up an appointment to visit him during the open recruiting period. They're the first to do that. They're on top of things. They're doing what they're supposed to do. He loves Coach Bradley and he loves Coach Norwood. He's been going to camp there since his ninth grade year and he's known those guys forever. Penn State was the first school to offer. He remembers that."

Where does Penn State see King playing? "Corner and some receiver. He's a kid when you watch his film you've got to find a way to get his hands on the football as well. He's just so explosive. He had 31 touchdowns and maybe two or three of them were under five yards."

Terry went on to talk about Justin's decision making process. "He's just examining and looking and weighing things out. Looking at graduation rates, the opportunity to go to the pros, if they offer his major, all the different variables that ultimately will help him make a decision. Right now he's looking into sports management. He wants to look into being an athletic director or a general manager in the pros or something like that. Obviously, one of his criteria for choosing a school is the opportunity. He doesn't want a guarantee he just wants an opportunity to say okay here's an open spot on the depth chart, the best guy will get the job."

He continued, "When you look at the choices, what's the difference in Florida State or USC or Michigan or Penn State or Ohio State? They all have great academic institutions. They all have great football traditions. There's not a lot that's different. Then it becomes a feel. His relationship with the coaches. The academics. Do they graduate their players. All the little intangibles that come into play beyond football."

Smith sees his role as helping to guide Justin through the process. "My job is to help get information, find statistics and background information on the schools. Talk to the coaches and see where they're coming from. Sometimes there are tough questions that the kid may not want to ask and I'll ask. It's a tough process for a 16-year-old kid, knowing exactly what to ask at all times and what to look for."

Finally, we asked Terry about Justin's plans for visits this spring.

"He went down to Pitt for junior day and he also went to junior day at Michigan. He was really impressed with Michigan. He liked Pitt. At Michigan the coaching staff focused a lot of attention on him and showed he was a priority. Within the next month or so he's going to try to get to Penn State, one of their practices, Ohio State and possibly Michigan. We're trying to juggle his schedule because he's in track now and they practice on Saturdays."

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