Cornerbacks need to have short memories, or so the saying goes. Good play, bad play, doesn’t matter. The only play that matters is the next one.
But when it came to the draft, Washington cornerback Kevin King was looking for a long memory, one that would last him and his family a lifetime. A memory of him fulfilling a dream and becoming an NFL player. Twenty-two players and their families crowded into the Green Room at the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia for the NFL’s 82nd Annual Selection Meeting, better known as the NFL Draft, on Thursday night, King included. Three hours and 34 minutes later when the first round drew to a close, 17 of those players had lived that dream -- their names called out at the podium and hats of new employers pulled on, as they walked across an illuminated stage to hug Commission Roger Goodell and hold up a No. 1 jersey with their new team colors.
King, however, wasn’t one of them.
“The emotions were flying,” King said of the hours that followed. “I didn’t really think. Really, all I could do is what I knew how to do. I went back to the hotel, I took my suit off and I had my headphones on and I went and worked out. I went and ran on the treadmill for about an hour and I hit the weights. That’s what makes me relax. Kind of do that to myself a little bit, and get ready for today.”
Of the five players who thought they’d be selected and weren’t – King, Colorado cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer, Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell and Alabama offensive tackle Cam Robinson – only one of them came back to face those four green walls on Friday night.
It was a short wait for King.
After trading back from the 29th pick in the first round on Thursday night to the first pick in the second – No. 33 overall – the Green Bay Packers took the towering 6-foot-3 cornerback to shore up a secondary that left Packers fans with their own painful memories from January’s NFC title game – namely watching Green Bay’s cornerbacks chasing the Atlanta Falcons’ receivers all over the Georgia Dome turf in a 44-21 loss.
“Oh, yeah, I seen that. I watched that. That was … I mean, that was an interesting one,” King said, with enough long pauses to acknowledge exactly why Green Bay needed a player like him. “They definitely could have had it. Anything I can do to help is what I’m here to do.”
Up to, and including, covering Julio Jones.
“I’m definitely up to it,” King said laughing. “And I’m definitely ready to get with the coaches and learn the scheme and go out there and make plays for the Packers. I’m ready.”
He was ready Thursday, but he didn’t let the wait spoil the experience.
“I came here for a reason,” King said. “I came here to hear my name called and, if I wanted to go home and do it at home, I would be at home. I came out here to Philly. I wanted my parents, I wanted all my brothers and sisters to get a chance to see all this, walk on the red carpet and everything. That was the one last thing that they needed to experience. Sitting in the Green Room and hearing the call and me walking out there getting my hat and hugging the commissioner -- I wasn’t leaving without it happening. I made it happen and everybody was so excited for me. It’s a blessing, and everybody was so happy.”
Count the Packers among the happy campers. While the phone calls came in with offers from teams looking to move into that first spot of the second round, Green Bay stayed put and drafted a player that many mock drafts had them taking with their original 29th pick. By moving down, the Packers scored an extra fourth-round pick from the Cleveland Browns and landed a lanky playmaker with and 4.43 speed at arguably their biggest area of need.
"I think it's always good to add guys with size,” said Eliot Wolf, Green Bay’s director of football operations. “That's something we're cognizant of. With him, the unique thing about such a tall guy is his ability to bend for such a tall guy. Sometimes the taller guys show a little bit of stiffness. We didn't see that. We actually saw that as a strength for him."
King’s is the tallest cornerback ever drafted by Ted Thompson, edging out 6-foot-1 1/4, Michael Hawkins, a fifth-round selection in 2005. But height isn’t the only thing that took him from the Green Room to the Green and Gold.
“He's a really versatile guy,” Wolf said. “He was a starting safety his sophomore year, played a lot in the slot his junior year and in the beginning of this year. He's also played outside. That's something we look for. We look for guys with that versatility. We see him being able to do a lot of different things for us.”
Overshadowed by fellow Washington cornerback Sidney Jones, a likely first-round pick prior to rupturing his Achilles at his pro day who was drafted by the Eagles in the second round at No. 43 overall, King was an honorable mention all-Pac-12 pick the past two seasons, starting 25 of 27 games. He followed up a 2015 campaign in which he notched 39 tackles, three picks and five pass break-ups, with 44 stops, two interceptions and a team-high 13 pass breakups last season. And his OBJ-esque, one-handed interception in the end zone against Arizona State in 2016 was one of the more impressive plays you’ll see over the course of a college football season.
“That’s kind of that … if I was a Heisman (Trophy) candidate, that would be my Heisman play,” King said, laughing. “But I think it just shows my athleticism, being able to turn and locate the ball and really my ball skills and having the confidence to go and make a play like that and really executing it.”
King provided his share of highlights at the NFL Combine, as well. His 6.56-second three-cone drill, 3.89-second 20-yard shuttle and 11.14-second 60-yard shuttle time were the top times posted for his position group, while his 39.5-inch vertical jump was second.
Now, it’s about making memories as a Packer.
"I think it's like anything, he's going to come in and have to compete for a job,” Wolf said. “We have some guys we like that are already here. We don't give jobs away. But we certainly like his skill set and his athletic ability. He's supposed to be a great kid, really smart and all that stuff. We just believe he's going to be able to help and contribute."
Contribute enough to one day become a No. 1 cornerback?
“We think so, yes.” Wolf said.
When and if that happens, King will be looking to steal a page or two from two big and big-play NFL cornerbacks he’s spent plenty of time watching during his college days in Seattle – 6-foot-3 Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and 6-foot-1 Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson.
“I watched a lot of Richard Sherman, I watched a lot of Patrick Peterson,” King said. “Those are bigger guys who are different. Patrick Peterson is a little more athletic guy. They both have great ball skills. Richard Sherman is so smart. Seeing the things he sees on the field is something I want to emulate into my game for sure.”
How quickly he can do that will go a long way in determining how soon he goes from No. 33 in the draft, to No. 1 on the depth chart.