Motivation No Problem For Kalen King

Rookie corner has something to prove.

When the Green Bay Packers make a selection in an NFL draft, the public relations people will reach the player on the telephone minutes later to get his initial reaction to being the newest member of the green and gold.  Usually the player reacts with excitement and joy. 

But when the team got defensive back Kalen King on the phone shortly after taking him with one of the final picks in the entire draft, it was clear he was less than excited and joyful.  He was angry and frustrated.  “I feel like this whole experience definitely was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to endure in my life,” he said.  

The Penn State prospect could hardly be blamed for being down in the dumps.  He knew his draft stock had fallen after a 2023 season that did not approach the excellence of the year before.  But he never expected to drop quite this far in the draft.  Brian Gutekunst got him with one of the five final compensatory picks of the entire weekend. 

This after being named second team All American in 2022, having led the Big Ten in pass break-ups.  He finished that year projected as a future first round talent. You can watch some of his career highlights here.  But in 2023 his play was mostly mediocre and pro scouts apparently dismissed his stardom the previous season as a fluke.  It didn’t help that he didn’t test well, and his RAS was under 7.0.  

 He waited all weekend for his name to be called.  Three long days.  33 cornerbacks taken ahead of him.  On day three there was a run on corners in the fifth round.  Ten of them taken in that round alone.  King listened intently as every name was called, waiting for that phone call.  It didn’t come.  Then, in the sixth round, King endured perhaps the biggest insult, when his cornerback teammate, Daequon Hardy, was picked. 

So pardon him if he was less than ecstatic when the Packers put him on the phone.  He wanted to set one thing straight to Packer fans immediately.  “Where I was drafted does not reflect the player that I am,” he stated emphatically. 

And now he gets his chance to prove it.  Motivation?  Incentive? That’s not going to be a problem for King.  “Not going where you thought you would go, seeing all the names being picked ahead of you, just enduring all that and seeing all that, I feel like it put a chip on my shoulder, a permanent chip on my shoulder that I've got to keep there." 

Good.  I like players with something to prove.  So, apparently, does Gutekunst, who seemed as surprised as King himself that the player was still available as the draft was drawing to a close.  “Our league has a long history of guys who felt they were overlooked, and use that as motivation to drive themselves. Hopefully, that'll be the case.” 

After settling down on the phone and getting his emotions under control, King, a deeply spiritual person, allowed that “God made the right choice for me. I feel like I’m in a place where I’m supposed to be and I’m happy that I got my name called."  

He’s right about being in the right place.  The cornerback room in Green Bay has the feel of being somewhat wide open.  Jaire Alexander is the star, but the seventh year veteran’s play last year was a shadow of the force he has been in the past, and he’s been battling injuries as well.  No one knows if former first round pick Eric Stokes can regain the promising form of his rookie season following his recovery from a knee injury.  The Packers didn’t exactly give him a vote of confidence this week when they chose not to pick up his fifth year option.  

Rasul Douglas was traded away at midseason last fall.  Carrington Valentine, like King a seventh round pick, started twelve games last year and held up okay, but the Packers probably hope for better.  Ditto for re-signed free agent Corey Ballentine who started six games.  Keisean Nixon will start at the slot and Robert Rochelle is mainly a special teams guy.  The Packers added eight undrafted free agents after the draft but none of them are corners. 

So the door seems open for King if he can relocate the magic that made coaches drool over his potential in 2022.  He certainly won’t be the most famous player in off season workouts, but he may well be the most motivated.  “I feel like the Packers are going to get one of the most competitive guys in the country," he promised.   

If that turns out to be true, he could become the biggest steal of the entire draft. 

 

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Ken Lass is a former Green Bay television sports anchor and 43 year media veteran, a lifelong Packers fan, and a shareholder.

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10 points
 

Comments (43)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
mnbadger's picture

May 03, 2024 at 12:16 pm

I feel bad for the young man, but good for the Pack.
He can now play with aggression knowing he's got nothing to prove to anybody but that they made mistakes. (as did Gutey in earlier rounds if Mr. King turns into a real player on Sundays!)
I've never been sure what the phrase "things happen for a reason" really means, it always seemed like you're giving up when you say that.
My wife has used the term at critical points and I'll be damned if we didn't overcome the problem and wind up better than we expected?
Wishing the same for Kalen (don't you dare call me Kevin!) King!
GPG!

8 points
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Cheezehead72's picture

May 03, 2024 at 12:39 pm

I agree and I hope he proves all 32 teams wrong that they should have drafted him sooner. Yes I included the Packers.

But I do not feel to bad for the guy because he has a chance how many players play four or five years in college and have no chance for the NFL.

6 points
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Gman1976's picture

May 04, 2024 at 11:56 am

I believe the above phrase comes from the Bible passage Romans 8:28. If you read it and the context, you will see why this phrase motivates its believers to persevere and not give up under the worst circumstances. History has proven this time and time again.

1 points
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mnbadger's picture

May 04, 2024 at 04:11 pm

thank you for providing context.
GPG!

1 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 03, 2024 at 12:46 pm

King could be the biggest steal of the entire draft. But probably not. Looking below the current atmosphere of hope. optimism, determination and vindication - for and by King - remains the outstanding problem that he was just a poor player in 2023. With his regular season, Senior Bowl and combine serving as proof. Nor has any concrete reason(s) been offered as to his awfulness. If there was a physical injury, a mental health reason, a bad scheme etc. - something that could help explain his reversal of form from 2022 - then I would be more onside with King as a legitimate NFL player. Sometimes the evocation of sheer will is not enough to overcome inherent deficiencies.

In horse racing - the Champion 2 Year Old often does not continue to become a Champion 3 Year Old. My opinion is that King may have simply peaked in 2022. So anything afterwards could be more indicative of his true form.

5 points
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Minniman's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:55 pm

I tend to agree with you A_P - Marvin Harrison Jr beat him every which way when Penn played OSU....... inside, outside, deep, press....... it didn't matter, he was rarely even 1 step late.

It's a shame that Rasul Douglas isn't still on the team - for many reasons(!) - but one would be imbuing the work ethic and mentoring a player who is clearly a "project" and will clearly take a few years to reach full potential.

If he succeeds, he's going to be a player that out-thinks their opponent (ala Douglas, Tramon Williams or Malcolm Butler), because they don't have the speed or size "fire-power" to physically beat opponents (or recover), so they rely on knowing the play and the QB to get their advantage.

https://www.dkpittsburghsports.com/2024/04/24/penn-state-football-nfl-dr...

2 points
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GregC's picture

May 03, 2024 at 12:49 pm

I've heard very little about why he regressed so much last season, or maybe didn't regress as much as people think he did. I find the latter hard to believe though, considering that no team felt he was worth taking until the end of the 7th round. I was hoping to get some insight about that from this article.

4 points
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splitpea1's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:10 pm

Poor showing at the Senior Bowl, poor showing at the combine with the speed, and a lot of Penn State fans think the presence of Joey Porter, Jr. (drafted in the second round last year by the Steelers) gave him more of an opportunity to shine; once Porter was subtracted, King returned to earth.

Worth a flyer.

4 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:24 pm

I don't fault the Packers for taking him @255. So worth a flyer. Although I liken his selection as more of a scratch 'n win ticket. With the same odds of winning something.

1 points
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GregC's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:50 pm

Usually when one CB is really good, the other CB gets picked on a lot. Maybe King kept his head in the game when the ball was coming his way more often. So the decline in performance may have been due to a lack of focus on his part. Obviously it is a concern when a player lacks focus for most of the season. His failure to acknowledge any shortcomings is a concern as well. He just thinks he got a raw deal in the draft. If that's what motivates him, that's fine. I'm just not confident that he is being realistic.

3 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:14 pm

I was looking to get more from King himself. Any player is loathe to admit that they merely were not good enough - for whatever reason(s). I think that a reality check-in is essential for King. Perhaps the Packers coaches can facilitate this for him.

1 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:15 pm

if you want a confession you should consider becoming a priest. king himself owes nothing.

-2 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:24 pm

Self-awareness would serve King better. The Team Psychologist would probably agree.

3 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 03, 2024 at 07:02 pm

it takes a fairly remarkable lack of self-awareness to project onto King that he (King) lacks self-awareness. but you do you.

-2 points
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Leatherhead's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:07 pm

Is he going to wear #20?

0 points
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GregC's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:39 pm

The new safety Javon Bullard will wear #20.

0 points
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Leatherhead's picture

May 03, 2024 at 03:00 pm

But we already have the jersey that says "King" and it's #20.

0 points
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stockholder's picture

May 03, 2024 at 06:59 pm

#34--- they should have given him #33

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:17 pm

Jason Wilde said he's been on a couple hundred of the conference calls after players are drafted and King was the most emotional one that he could remember.

Supposedly Packers had him clocked at 4.52 at his pro day, still a little slow for a press and run corner but the quickness flipping the hips and the explosion in the 1st 10 yards is more important. He also probably has the ability to move inside with his willingness to tackle vs the run. Ross Uglem said he had him at 85 on his board because he thinks he could be a 10 year starter at nickel but that's a crowded spot now. If he wants to stay outside he needs to be a very technically sound CB.

3 points
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DoubleJ's picture

May 03, 2024 at 01:57 pm

"Supposedly Packers had him clocked at 4.52 at his pro day, still a little slow for a press and run corner"

I was always under the impression that bump and run corners could tend to be a little slower in the long speed since the bump is designed to disrupt the rhythm of the play.

0 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:29 pm

Zone CBs can be slower, especially on teams that play a bunch of cover 2. Even the best press and run CB will occasionally get beat off the press and need to be good at flipping their hips and have decent catch up speed.

That's in general, every team plays a mix of zone and man now but usually lean more to one or the other.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 03, 2024 at 07:11 pm

Well, the Al Harris type of bump and run maybe. Some killjoys at the league consigned that to history though.

If he ran a 4.52 he matched our 2 highest pick ILBs, to give context. Douglas ran a 4.59, which is one reason why he didn’t excel in man. Nixon ran a 4.42.

1 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:03 pm

Great recognition, ball skills and fluidity. Not an elite athlete. Inside as a lighter slot option or in multi DB sets, he could really be an asset. Outside, he’s an emergency option only due to his speed limitations.

With Joey Porter gone, he faced the best receivers last season and it highlighted the limitations to his athleticism. He wasn’t all that bad except when he faced ones that projected to the NFL athletically. Then he had the same issues at the Senior Bowl. He’s just not an outside corner against the very top athletes: he’s over matched. Inside he could be really good.

5 points
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Johnblood27's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:12 pm

good taek Coldwater!

2 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:17 pm

I don't think that the Packers would have wasted a draft pick on King - just purely based on hope. They must foresee some role for him. Being an interior DB could very well be his calling in the NFL.

2 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:49 pm

It would be a little bit of overkill to draft him to play nickel after they drafted 3 safeties that all played there way more nickel than he did(34 slot snaps in three years). However, if it's clear in mini camp he can't athletically hold up on the outside I hope they don't mess around, move him inside so they can see his progress in TC. He'd most likely end up on the PS but maybe could compete for a starting spot in '25. A lot of projection there but you have to like his willingness to tackle and he looks like he has a thicker body type where he could add 5-10 lbs.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 03, 2024 at 04:45 pm

Very good football instincts and ball skills. Worth a flyer at that point in the draft regardless of an obvious position.

His 40 time isn’t that dissimilar to Rasul Douglas’ 4.59. However Douglas was always vulnerable deep if a player got a step on him and struggled in man generally. He was a zone guy and zone tends to favor slower backs with good ball skills. The difference here maybe that Kings fluidity of movement is greater, which should help him play press inside where Douglas was a disappointment.

He didn’t play inside much in college because he was so good outside in ‘22 and their number 1 corner in ‘23. He’s a ball hawk who reads fields well and has instincts to make plays if he’s in contention. He could use adding some functional strength though in contested situations.

One thing that I see here is references to his willingness to tackle. I have to admit that surprised me. He’s not a good tackler. He tends to dive Savage-like and doesn’t wrap up. I don’t see him as a good tackler and I’m not aware of any source that considers it a strong point for him. In fact it’s the one area I think he has to get a lot better at to thrive in the middle (and a subsidiary reason why he didn’t play there much in college).

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 03, 2024 at 05:46 pm

From PFN's draft profile:

"To top it all off, King is extremely physical and tenacious in run support as well, with the block IQ, combativeness, and sure tackling ability to be an asset there as well.

Because King’s chief strengths are his quickness, fluidity, physicality, pedal in zone, and route recognition ability, it’s feasible to project a move to safety at the NFL level."

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/kalen-king-draft-scouting-2024/

1 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 03, 2024 at 06:29 pm

Wes Hod from packers.com reported that King played some nickel today. Kind of funny, if they move him there full time that's basically 4 safeties they drafted this year, although I would hope they wouldn't ask him to do anything more than nickel this year.

0 points
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Coldworld's picture

May 03, 2024 at 07:05 pm

Probably just checking him out there. The fact is that IF he can tackle he looks almost like a classic slot prototype. He’d be a better slot on passing downs on paper than anyone else I’d think (since Bullard would be at S presumably). The tackling claim is odd to me. He doesn’t look good on what I’ve seen. Perhaps too many Savage dive memories rekindled. Hope I’m wrong.

As to the slot and safety, here’s what PFN concluded: “King’s chief strengths are his quickness, fluidity, physicality, pedal in zone, and route recognition ability, it’s feasible to project a move to safety at the NFL level.” If you add the slot into that rationale, I think that’s a very neat summary of where I think he will shine and why, especially if he tackles properly.

He’s lighter and not as strong as DeJean at this point, but he’s got as good ball skills and is a much more flexible and fluid short area mover. Why not take a flyer?

1 points
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stockholder's picture

May 03, 2024 at 02:12 pm

MLF will find a place for him.
Even if it's safety.

0 points
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3
LeotisHarris's picture

May 03, 2024 at 04:40 pm

He must be a high character guy if God made the choice for him to be in Green Bay.

6 points
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LLCHESTY's picture

May 03, 2024 at 06:32 pm

That was one of the reasons I wanted them to draft the guard Christian Haynes. He's a real religious guy that likes putting guys on their butts. The last "possessed by the Lord to wreak havoc" guy we had worked out pretty well.

2 points
2
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 03, 2024 at 07:04 pm

That was Jesus all day long, kicking ass, taking names

I think I read that in Two Corinthians

0 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 03, 2024 at 06:45 pm

Salt of the earth, chip on his shoulder.

I'd like to do my typical editorial note: He's a 7th round draft choice. People are getting pretty wound up over his prospects.

2 points
3
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LeotisHarris's picture

May 03, 2024 at 07:50 pm

A lot of people, many, many people are saying he's been reading the Book of Job exclusively since his endure-a-thon at the Draft. He continues to endure, by all accounts. And, sources are hinting to Wilde that the shoulder chip has grown at to at least three times its original size with the help of Lot and his, erm, ah, his wife, I guess. Just what I heard.

4 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 03, 2024 at 09:35 pm

I like it bigly when we speak the secret languages

2 points
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TKWorldWide's picture

May 04, 2024 at 08:02 am

Packer People also exhibit outstanding hygiene. Very thorough in the shower; among the wettest of all time in terms of water. Big water. Ocean water.

3 points
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Bitternotsour's picture

May 04, 2024 at 10:05 am

Big clean men, with tears in their eyes, and not from shampoo.

2 points
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Oppy's picture

May 03, 2024 at 08:48 pm

They're excited because he was projected to be a 1st round talent if he had declared in 2022.

Talent wise, he looks like a steal in the 7th. There's reasons to be excited about almost all of this year's draft picks. My interest is piqued by Kitan Oladapo, myself. His film is pretty intriguing.

Also, Meyers will not be the starting center by the end of 2025 ;)

1 points
1
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LambeauPlain's picture

May 04, 2024 at 09:46 am

Show of hands...who had Valentine projected for starting snaps coming into Training Camp?

Maybe an even better comparison: Could King be Wicks 2.0 for this draft class? Wicks was a projected first or second rounder as a Junior but returned for a subpar, inconsistent (drops!), senior season and was tumbling down the board until Gute stopped the drop.

Bloom where you are planted, Kalen. Welcome to Green Bay. I think you are going to enjoy the venue and the opportunity.

0 points
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golfpacker1's picture

May 04, 2024 at 11:26 am

GB has a really talented, young team. Hopefully everyone takes a jump in 2024. I really see no way the team is not better this year. We filled holes in the draft with upgrade players. Just as the WR & TE groups became team strengths the last 2 years, the Safety and LB groups have become team position strengths this year. OL also became stronger.

A group that didn't have success might be the key to how far the Packers advance this year, that's special teams. The coverage units should be better because of the addition of young talent, but the jury is still out on the kicking game. Hopefully there is nowhere to go but up. I would have loved to have scored the punter from Iowa as he was a gamechanger for the pathetic Hawkeyes offense. He will make the Bears better for sure.

Maybe we have started a new team drafting tradition by taking Penn State 7th round sleepers who become solid starters. Kind of like our early drafting habit of Georgia players. Georgia does have a much better coaching staff though. James Franklin is overrated.

0 points
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NoNonsense's picture

May 05, 2024 at 08:08 am

Well I sure thank Gute for overlooking Jordan Love's particularly terrible final season after having a great year the year prior. That turned out pretty well so far. That has actually been a trend for Gute in a few of his drafts. He will overlook a bad or mediocre final season if you have shown you can play at a high level in prior seasons.

I think the most overlooked part of drafting King is his new coach Jeff Haley. Almost every player I've heard speak about him has said he simplifies the game so much for his players and that allows them to play the game at full speed. He was a DB coach throughout his NFL career so there is hope he can bring the best out of all his players in the back 7 especially but also allow the guys up front to attack and truly reek havoc on offenses.

Wish Jerry Gray was still here because Rasul Douglas credited him with learning how to watch film to give him an edge against his opponents and made him the player we got to know and love.
Hopefully Jaire and others who were here for those film watching sessions will pass on the knowledge to King so he has every tool at his disposal to let that chip on his shoulder truly motivate him to be great.

I thought it was an excellent pick at 255, talent can only take you so far, sheer will, determination and work ethic can take you farther. If those 3 intersect than you can have a pretty good player on your hands.

-1 points
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1