For most athletes, a change in location and a new coaching staff would put that player in a tough position to be a starter. Post-graduate Sam Houston State transfer Don King III would not let that be his fate as he was named Rock Football’s starting quarterback in the opening game of the season against the University of New Haven.
“The QB battle was very competitive,” King said. “Being named the starter was a surprise.”
The son of former Southern Methodist University standout quarterback, Don King Jr, King III credits his father for getting him into the game he initially did not want to play. King did not start playing football until the seventh grade, where he quickly learned he had inherited his father’s talents.
A native of Dallas, TX, King graduated from Waxahachie High School, where he was the school’s starting quarterback. He excelled both on and off the field as he was an All-District and All-State honorable mention in football and a member of the National Honor Society and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. His character and play would land him a scholarship at Sam Houston State University.
After spending three years as a backup in Sam Houston State’s offense, one year under ex-Rock offensive coordinator Phil Longo, and graduating with a degree in kinesiology with a minor in exercise science, King will have his first opportunity to lead an offense for a collegiate program.
King said it was not Longo who helped him find his way, but Longo’s then successor at SRU, now Sam Houston State running backs coach, Zach Patterson.
“Coach Longo brought the air raid with him to Sam Houston,” King said. “One day when Coach Patterson was visiting and talking football with Longo he saw me playing and got me up here.”
Even with the coaching of Longo and the recommendation from Patterson, King’s journey to being named the starter was not an easy one. Redshirt senior quarterback Zack Newsock gave the transfer a tough fight from spring ball up until the last week before facing New Haven.
“Zack’s a great player,” King said. “Anything I did, he could do the same.”
Newsock’s great play during summer camp and veteran leadership for the Rock, which includes a 5-2 starting record and 60% completion percentage that ranks 5th in single-season history in 2014, was not enough to beat King.
After running off the field from an after practice conditioning workout Monday night, Newsock said he was disappointed, but he will always put the team first and do what’s best for the team. Entering his fifth season as a member of the Rock program, he said the one thing that keeps him motivated his the brotherhood and the amount of work he has put in for the program.
“At any point, anything can happen,” Newsock said. “If someone goes down, we are just ready to step in. That’s what I have to be ready to do.”
Both players did not make the decision easy for the coaches. Head coach Shawn Lutz has seen the progression of Newsock over the years, but new offensive coordinator Justin Roper has gotten to see both quarterbacks with fresh eyes.
Roper said that his decision came down to the last scrimmage of camp. If both players earn time they will play, he said, but he has to put in who he thinks will put the team in the best situation.
“Both guys played better in the fall than spring,” Roper said. “The guy who makes plays will play.”
Roper means that for the entire offense. While he will be returning redshirt senior Shamar Greene in the backfield, his brand new receiving core will consist of senior Drew Scales, who missed a lot of last season due to injury, his replacement last year, redshirt junior Cornelius “Milly” Raye, junior Marcus Johnson and sophomore Carnel Harley.
Roper said, that for him, new is a benefit. King does not disagree.
“I’m very excited for this season,” King said. “Scales, Milly, Marcus and Carnel can play.”
King said he knows he has a lot to live up to but he is up for the challenge. Coming into a program with a winning tradition and new head coach, King will be the first quarterback to lead the Rock’s offense during the Lutz era and has the opportunity to begin 2016 season on a high note on Saturday.