ARLINGTON, Texas — Marquette King never looked the part, which was never really the problem.
Marquette King refused to play the part, which ultimately was the problem.
The irony isn’t lost on him. He was the rarest of NFL creatures: He was a punter, and there was a demand to buy his jersey.
He was a punter with fans.
“I remember when (the Raiders) came to me and told me that they had to make my jersey because so many people wanted to buy them,” he said. “That was pretty cool.”
That would have been around 2015. When the Raiders were still in Oakland. When King was in the middle of his six-year NFL career when he was one of the top players at his position.
He last punted in the NFL in 2018, when he played one season for the Denver Broncos. It ended ugly, when it should not have ended at all.
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Today, he’s 34, the oldest player in the XFL. He plays for the Arlington Renegades, now in its first season in the latest reboot of the XFL.
King ranks first in the XFL in punting.
He is the perfect candidate to take this opportunity in the XFL and turn it into a look from the NFL. He’s not expecting it.
He’s made peace with all of it, which may be his most impressive feat to date.
The NFL made up its mind about Marquette King.
If King was a skill position player, “I’d still be in the NFL,” he said after a recent Renegades practice on the field.
Without a doubt.
King’s leg wasn’t a problem. It was his personality.
He has one.
His face has a handful of piercings. A few of his teeth have studs. His hair wasn’t done at Great Clips.
Listen to him talk and he could easily pass for a high school teacher. College professor. Insurance salesman.
He’s funny. Thoughtful. Insightful.
He was good. He was also theatrical.
King was known to celebrate his punts. To show off. To talk.
Pat McAfee did the same thing with the Indianapolis Colts.
A difference was the Colts like McAfee.
The Raiders were fine with King, when the head coach was Jack Del Rio. But Del Rio was replaced by Jon Gruden after the 2017 season; he signed a 10-year contract that included power in player personnel.
Months before training camp, Gruden cut King.
“It was really hard; to be in that situation when Gruden came in, for somebody to not know you at all and just get rid of you with no explanation threw me off,” King said. “I started to look like the bad guy, and it took me a while to realize some people like you, and some people don’t. It was a hard pill to swallow.”
Gruden was your traditional macho tough guy coach. He didn’t want to hear a word, much less multiple sentences, from his punter.
King signed a three-year contract with the Broncos in April of 2018; punting in Denver’s high altitude appealed to King, and he figured he would dominate.
The relationship started out bad and progressively turned worse.
His special teams coach asked him to change his mechanics. Which, why would you do that with a proven veteran?
King had a tiff in preseason with a local Denver radio personality that didn’t look great.
Early in the season he suffered an abductor injury. He lasted four games with the Broncos.
He played against Kansas City on Oct. 1, 2018, and placed on injured reserve and released shortly thereafter. He has not played in the NFL since.
“It took me a while to get through that,” he said. “There was some depression with that. It took about 2 1/2 years. I constantly talked to my cousin on the phone, and that helped me get to a better place. It was up and down. I’d be happy, and other days I’d think, ‘What the (expletive)? I should still be playing.’”
He thinks part of his biggest problem in the NFL came down to different.
“It was different. I was different. A lot of people don’t like different. They like what makes them comfortable,” King said. “I’m not perfect. Nowhere near. I am sure there are things I could have done to make the situations better, but you can only do so much.
“I am sure when my name came around (in NFL circles), it was, ‘Oh, God.’ ”
King’s attitude about the life really didn’t fit the NFL, even though it should.
“I’ve lived all of my life celebrating, having fun. Life is too short to take everything so seriously,” he said. “It’s just a game. It’s entertainment. People come to be entertained. That was something I learned early; if I can have fun, and make people smile, I’m going to do it.”
He currently lives in the greater Phoenix area, and he’s doing fine. He has money. He spends a lot of time creating music.
He didn’t need to come back to play football again. He wants to play football again. He wants a better ending to a big part of his life.
He says if someone told him 10 years ago this is what was coming, he wouldn’t do anything differently. He likes where he is.
If an NFL team calls him for a look, he’s open. If no NFL team calls him, he’s fine with, too.
Marquette King did what the NFL wants. He was good, generated interest, wasn’t a problem off the field, sold jerseys, and ... he was cut.
Because he was a punter.