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Untargeted & Respected: Kalen King Playing Role For Penn State Football Defense

These days, Kalen King doesn’t see the ball thrown his way much.

Before the start of the season, King not only established himself as the best cornerback that Penn State football has to offer but one of the best cornerbacks in college football. Through three games, those are accolades he hasn’t yet let go.

In Penn State’s first three contests of the season, King recorded eight total tackles and defended one pass. His numbers don’t jump off the page, but King just doesn’t get the chance to make a lot of plays.

“People aren’t throwing to Kalen,” James Franklin said Tuesday at a media availability. “That’s a whole other conversation we can have, with the respect he’s earned in this conference, but also nationally.”

King doesn’t need stats to prove his worth. Wide receivers know what he offers when he goes up against them in games. Quarterbacks certainly know what he brings because they aren’t targeting him.

Most importantly, NFL scouts know what King offers. Per the NFL Mock Draft Database, which compiles most drafts from different analysts, the consensus is that King is a first-round prospect. If that were to be the case, King would be the first Penn State defensive back in program history to hear his name called in the first round.

“I see it all the time. But I’m focused on what’s right now in front of me,” King said Wednesday about any NFL noise around him. “Let me control what I can from this point forward.”

When called upon, King is ready to make a play. But he isn’t often called upon.

When Penn State recorded four interceptions against Illinois last Saturday, King was one of Penn State’s few options at cornerback that didn’t catch a pass from Illini quarterback Luke Altmyer. Instead, it was Penn State’s other cornerbacks who recorded three of the four interceptions: Cam Miller, Johnny Dixon, and Daequan Hardy all put a notch in the interceptions column.

King didn’t go without an interception against Illinois because he had a bad game, but because there just weren’t enough opportunities to do so. Playing the role of the top cornerback who doesn’t get targets isn’t one that King loves, but it’s also one that he’s accepted as part of his journey in college football.

“I feel like I haven’t really gotten a lot of action, but that’s just going back to me just doing my job every play, not getting bored out there,” King said.

Still, King would like some help from opposing quarterbacks to keep him active and part of the play. He may notch an interception against those quarterbacks, but he’d appreciate it if they just threw him the ball more. All King wants is more chances to prove himself.

King’s experience is nothing new. He’s going through exactly what his predecessor, Joey Porter Jr., went through during his time as Penn State’s top cornerback.

Porter, who was Penn State’s top cornerback option last year and one of the best defensive backs in program history, also saw few pass targets because of the name he made for himself across the collegiate landscape.

King and Porter maintain the relationship they had in college, King said. Porter was a mentor to King in college while King was the presumed heir to the top cornerback role, and that friendship has continued to develop since Porter turned professional. King also seems to have taken a page out of Porter’s book on how to handle the role of being one of the Nittany Lions’ top defensive options.

“I feel like he handled it how he was supposed to,” King said. “Just staying patient, not really looking to make a play, just doing your job consistently in the plays that come to you.”

Regardless of the looks that he gets, King said he’s not focused on himself. His role is to support the team as best he can. If that means King doesn’t get the highlight reel plays that he’d like, he’s okay with that.

“I don’t really get bored out there when I’m going because I’m always happy to be on the field, whether I’m active or not, really I’m just happy to be out there,” King said. “And as long as we’re winning, I’m winning, and I’m contributing to my team and our success.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and an associate editor at Onward State. He covers Penn State football and enjoys yelling on Twitter about Philadelphia/Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. Please send all positive affirmations and/or hate mail toward him on Twitter (iamjoelister) or via email ([email protected]).

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