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Kalen King Embracing Newfound Leadership Role Ahead Of Rose Bowl

Penn State football cornerback Kalen King grew up watching Charles Woodson highlights. Woodson, a four-time first-team All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler, was a dominant defensive back for the Packers and Raiders during his 18-year NFL career.

It wasn’t just Woodson’s on-field play that made him a defensive standout and one of the best of all time at his position. Woodson’s leadership paid tremendous dividends for his squads throughout his long career, and it was one of the driving forces behind the Packers’ Super Bowl run back in 2011.

King’s 2022 campaign saw him make big strides en route to being named a third-team All-Big Ten honoree. King credits his “own intelligence on the field” for allowing him to take the next step this season, which featured more film study and a better grasp of route combinations and formations, leading to better play recognition from the sophomore corner.

King totaled 16 passes defended and two interceptions this season, helping to form quite the cornerback tandem with Joey Porter Jr. With King emerging as one of the best players on Manny Diaz’s defense, the Michigan native is now focused on taking on more of a leadership role heading into next year.

Porter won’t play in the Rose Bowl and is now off to the NFL, which paves the way for King to step up and take hold of the position group, emulating some of Woodson’s qualities.

“I definitely plan on taking more of a leadership role because I feel like with Joey leaving, this is an opportunity for me to come up and grab the room as far as from a leadership role,” King said on Friday. “This offseason and going into next year, that’s one of my biggest things that I’m working on.”

King learned a lot from Porter both on and off the field, calling his time around Porter “second to none.” King credited Porter for always helping out some of the younger players in the room while still maintaining his ultra-competitive mentality.

“Joey is one of those guys who’s always looking out for the next person,” King said. “He will always look out for us. He’s just a very great dude. He’s fun to be around and he’s very competitive. He’s one of the most competitive dudes I’ve ever met in my life. He’s never scared to go at somebody. That’s crazy.”

Furthermore, King went as far as to say that when he looks at Porter’s journey, he sees the path of how he wants his own career to go. King mentioned that competing with a guy like Porter — who is a projected first-round pick and has earned several accolades throughout his collegiate career — has “done nothing but help” him.

As King embarks on his newfound leadership role, he plans to take some of the qualities he’s learned from some of the current team leaders — PJ Mustipher, Sean Clifford, and Ji’Ayir Brown. He called them the unquestioned top three leaders on the team and wants to be in a role like them next year.

“They come in every day with the same mentality every day,” King said “They’re never down and never out. They always got the juice. They always bring the juice, looking for opportunities to help us as a defense or just bring information to the defense that they know or to the offense.”

Speaking about Brown specifically, King said he’s been around “Tig” ever since arriving on campus. He makes it a point to be around Brown and soak up what he’s saying because he hopes to be in the position that Brown is in a year from now.

Brown, who’ll play his final game for Penn State on Monday before setting his sights on the NFL, often goes out of his way to help King and his teammates.

“It’s always a listening point when I’m with Tig because he’s such a cool person,” King said. “He’s a very giving person. He’s never selfish, he’s always looking to see how he can help somebody else. Every time I’m around Tig, I’m just like a sponge listening to what he has to say.”

King will get his first chance to lead the cornerback room when Penn State faces off against Utah at 5 p.m. EST on Monday, January 2, at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena.

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About the Author

Gabe Angieri

Gabe is a senior majoring in journalism and is Onward State's managing editor. He grew up in Lindenhurst, New York, and has had the absolute misfortune of rooting for the Jets, Mets, and Knicks. If you want to see his bad sports takes, follow him on Twitter @gabeangieri and direct all hate mail and death threats to [email protected]

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