Amazing how a career, a life, can change instantly — while just sitting on your couch.
That’s what David King was doing this week in his apartment in the suburbs of Northern Kentucky. He was enjoying another routine players’ Tuesday off in his work week on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. The defensive end was finishing his second consecutive season, only practicing four days each week of the regular season and never playing in a game. He earned $106,000 on the Bengals’ practice squad last season as a rookie seventh-round draft choice out of Oklahoma. And he was again making a modest (by NFL standards) paycheck of $6,300 per week minimum this season, according to the league’s latest collective bargaining agreement.
Then his phone buzzed.
One text from his agent and one sunrise later, he was in a meeting with the Seattle Seahawks defense.
“I was all right, just hanging out on my couch back in Northern Kentucky — and about 15 hours later I was in a meeting here,” King said with a smile inside his new workplace, the Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center.
“Yeah, this is great,” King said after the Seahawks announced they had signed him to their active roster and released linebacker Allen Bradford. “I’m now on the best defense in the league.”
The Seahawks have told King they want him to be a five-technique defensive end — that is, head-up over the offensive tackle and responsible for both the “B” and the “C” gaps, between the guard and tackle and the tackle and tight end. It’s part of the Seahawks’ defensive philosophy of a 4-3 scheme (four down linemen, three linebackers) with 3-4 principles.
King is here because the Seahawks (9-4) on Friday listed defensive end Demarcus Dobbs as out for Sunday’s game against San Francisco (7-6) at CenturyLink Field. Dobbs, signed earlier this season off waivers from the 49ers, has an ankle sprain that is “legit” in the word of coach Pete Carroll.
King was a three-technique end in Cincinnati, albeit on the practice squad. That’s an end that shades the outside edge of the offensive tackle and is primarily responsible for just one gap, off tackle.
He last played a five-technique defensive end in college at Oklahoma, before Philadelphia drafted him in the seventh round last year.
King left his car, his apartment and almost all his belongings back in that apartment in the Cincinnati suburbs. He is now living out of two bags in a hotel near Seahawks headquarters, trying to learn enough of the playbook to contribute Sunday against the 49ers. It will be the first time he’s been on an active roster for a game in his two NFL seasons.
“I’m just blessed and grateful,” King said. “It’s been a long journey to get here.”
Even longer than it seems.
Gladys King raised David — and protected him — as a single mother in one of Houston’s roughest neighborhoods east of that city’s downtown core. She worked so David could attend Strake Jesuit High School, a prep school with an annual tuition then of about $16,000, to give David a better chance of getting out into a new world and life.
That’s how King got out of his dangerous side of Houston. But two months after his freshman season at Oklahoma ended, his mother died after a long deterioration from diabetes.
“She held on long enough to see me get to college,” King said this week, proudly.
But not long enough for her son to see her a final time. King’s hurriedly arranged trip home from Oklahoma City to Houston got delayed.
“Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it back home before she passed,” King said.
So, no, getting shoved into a brand-new position on a new team days before a huge rivalry game with playoff implications doesn’t really daunt King.
“You grow up real quick,” he said, “when you are 20 years old and you’ve got no house, no car, and you lose your mom.”
His 25th birthday is in two weeks. Tuesday, he got an early present in more ways than just being on the active roster of the defending Super Bowl champions.
In these next three weeks he will earn three-fourths of what he made all of last season with Cincinnati. Since he’s been signed to the active roster during the regular season, he’s guaranteed to receive at least three weeks’ salary, a prorated amount of the league minimum. That will net him $74,118 this month.
It’s a small price for the Seahawks to pay if King can contribute to their run defense while Dobbs is out.
Carroll sounded positive about Max Unger returning to practice Friday, though the two-time Pro Bowl center is doubtful to play against the 49ers. Unger has been out for three games with a high-ankle sprain and twisted knee he got in the fourth quarter of the loss at Kansas City last month. “Really encouraging signs about him getting back here soon,” Carroll said. That hints the Seahawks are going to ensure Unger is a full-go as he can be for next week at first-place Arizona. Lemuel Jeanpierre almost certainly will start at center again Sunday against the 49ers. … TE Cooper Helfet (sprained ankle) is questionable to play. RB Marshawn Lynch (back) and DB Jeremy Lane (glute) are probable.