Justin King did well at Penn State's pro day yesterday.
The target of some criticism for much of the 2007 season at Penn State, King decided to forgo his final year of eligibility with the Nittany Lions and take his skills to the NFL.
He was named first-team All-Big Ten by both the media and coaches for his junior year. And yet, Lions' fans insisted the star from Western Pennsylvania needed another year under his belt before going pro.
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'He gave up 14 catches to Indiana wideout James Hardy. He's not ready for the pros. How can he possibly go to the NFL?' Penn State fans scoffed.
Then, he went to Indianapolis.
At the NFL Combine, King ran a blistering 4.31-second 40-yard dash, the second fastest among every participant. Just like that, King slammed the negative perceptions back to where they came from.
"I didn't really listen to what people said before," King said yesterday afternoon following his 'Pro Day' workout for NFL scouts at Penn State's Holuba Hall. "I knew what I had to do this year. I knew how I felt and I knew I could always run.
"I haven't run a 4.4 since eighth grade so I wasn't expecting anything less."
For Penn State fans who maybe were, King explained that for the media and the typical fan, a misunderstanding of the game can lead to the misperceptions.
"Corners are a position where mistakes are magnified and they expect something," he said. "Honestly I don't know, I read some stuff that's like, 'a receiver destroyed' me. But I'm like, 'I didn't cover the guy all game.'
"It's just like, the secondary does that and it seems it always kind of feels like sometimes it fell on my shoulders. Listen what you listen to, you know how to play, I'm the one that watches film. You guys get to watch it from the fan point of view and all that things. I get to understand the scheme and where people are supposed to be."
King went on to explain that it wasn't even the widely held notion that the 10-yard cushion Penn State's corners give opposing receivers that led to the most receptions.
"It's just a matter of the coverage and them just running the right play," he said. "If you got a cover three, I'm supposed to play deep so if they throw underneath, the linebacker is the main cover. But sometimes people catch it and it's like 'Oh, it's Justin' because he was over him but it's like, 'No, there's somebody right here.'
"I had better stats my junior year than my sophomore year. My junior year I made first-team All-Big Ten and my sophomore year I made honorable mention but my sophomore year was supposed to be the great one so, I don't know."
As for the negative reputation that followed him by some beat writers this season, King explained that NFL scouts and coaches knew better.
"They never really said anything about a rep, they just said I didn't get treated fair sometimes but, whatever."
Yesterday, multiple sources confirmed that his rising draft stock got another boost with his solid performance.
He didn't run the 40-yard dash, but then again, he didn't need to. Having caught the ball well at position-specific drills, King said he thought he had a very, very good day.
"I really think I showed my athleticism at the combine," he said. "Today I showed just more specific things that I can do, my ability catching the ball and other things so I feel good."
With Steelers' head coach Mike Tomlin on hand as well as multiple other Pittsburgh personnel, speculation took off that he could potentially be their first pick in the draft on April 26 with the No. 23 pick. Other sources claimed that the San Diego Chargers were also highly interested in King with the No. 28 pick.
King said he's not worrying about the speculation.
"I've heard nothing but good things so far but you never know in this game, you just take it day by day," he said. "Don't get too high, don't get too low and just wait for the 26th."
Until then, King said he's staying at Penn State to work out with the Nittany Lions' strength coaches and prep for the draft and mini-camp in shape, all while flying in and out of State College to do individual workouts for specific teams around the league.
When asked if he'd like to be taken in the first round, King said that while it would be nice, it's even simpler than that.
"I just want to play football. It's been a dream of mine to play in the NFL," he said. "It's an ego thing but I'm not that.
"I want to go in the first round but everybody wants to go in the first round. I hope I do. I hope I've been able to prove in the off-season that I'm a first-round guy but I really don't think the scouts saw my season as being as bad as a lot of people made it out to be."