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Justin King quickly established himself as one of the top cover-corners in the Big Ten during his sophomore season and should emerge as an All-Big Ten, All-America and Jim Thorpe Award candidate this year. Having demonstrated his multiple skills and productivity on offense, defense and special teams during his initial two seasons as a Nittany Lion, King has an extremely bright future on the gridiron. But, the humble and easy-going young man also can be proud of how he has excelled in the classroom since enrolling early at Penn State, in January 2005. Every semester and summer session the past three years, King has been focused and diligent on earning a high level of achievement in his academic pursuits. Entering the fall semester, he was on schedule to graduate in December, three years after enrolling, a tremendous accomplishment considering the brief length of time and commitments faced by student-athletes. King owns a better than 3.00 cumulative grade-point average, earned Dean's List recognition during the 2005 fall semester and was an Academic All-Big Ten selection in 2006. A Freshman All-American selection by The Sporting News as a multiple-position true freshman in 2005, King was able to focus his many skills on the defense last year, starting every game at right cornerback. The former prep All-American improved throughout the season and helped a secondary that featured four new starters thrive. Regarded as the nation's top prep cornerback in 2004, King is rated the Big Ten's best cover-man by The Sporting News. He was named a preseason second-team All-American by Phil Steele's 2007 College Football Preview. The gifted and hard-working scholar-athlete will be a leader for a talented secondary that is rated No. 4 in the nation by TSN. Blessed with speed and instincts, King is one of the quickest Nittany Lions. Widely recognized as one of the top players in the country coming out of Gateway HS in suburban Pittsburgh, King did not disappoint and quickly made good on his promise to help boost the Nittany Lions back into the National Championship picture. His impact began some 10 months prior to the 2005 season-opener, and could have a profound impact on the program for years to come. The night of November 15, 2004, King announced he would become a Nittany Lion and enroll in the University in January. Shortly thereafter, if not before, King began contacting other premier players across the nation that were considering Penn State, asking them to join him to help Penn State win Big Ten and National Championships. Within days of King's announcement, other top prep players began giving Joe Paterno their commitments, including Derrick Williams, the nation's top rated player. King played at Gateway for his stepfather, Terry Smith, who was a standout receiver for the Nittany Lions from 1988-91. He and freshman tight end Jon Ditto were teammates at Gateway and are among 13 returning Nittany Lions from Western Pennsylvania.
2006 Sophomore Season
King established himself as one of the top cover-corners in the Big Ten during his sophomore season. Having played multiple positions as a freshman All-American in 2005, he was able to focus his multiple skills on the defense, starting every game at right cornerback. A second-team All-Big Ten selection, King improved throughout the season and played a substantial role in helping a secondary that featured four new starters thrive and improve. He recorded 30 tackles (22 solo), one interception, and six pass breakups. King was instrumental in helping the Penn State defense rank in the top 15 nationally in rushing (87.5 ypg, seventh), scoring (14.4 ppg, ninth), total defense (284.5 ypg, 15th) and pass efficiency defense (105.9 rating, 14th) and sacks (40, sixth tie) last season. Against Ohio State, King spent much of his day blanketing explosive wideout Ted Ginn Jr. King made a diving interception, the first of his career, of the initial pass directed to Ginn. The pick was the first of the season in 152 pass attempts overall for eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Troy Smith. King shadowed Ginn all over the field and held him to just two catches for 15 yards, and made three hits as the Lions' defense gave up only 14 points and 115 passing yards to the Buckeyes. King delivered another stellar effort in the 20-10 win over Tennessee in the Outback Bowl, limiting All-American Robert Meachem to just four catches for 33 yards. Against the dynamic Northwestern offense, King held the Wildcats' leading receiver, Shaun Herbert, to just three catches for 34 yards and made three stops. He recorded a career-high five tackles against Youngstown State and three solo stops each at Minnesota and against Illinois. In the 12-0 win at Purdue, King made two solo tackles and broke up one pass, helping to limit the nation's No. 4 passing offense to just 184 yards (125 below average). The Boilermakers were blanked for the first time under Coach Joe Tiller. King finished the regular-season strong, breaking up two passes in the Senior Day win over Michigan State. He was on the field for 900 snaps, third-highest on the squad, led by 93 plays against Akron and 90 versus Michigan State.
2005 Fresman Season
Regarded as the nation's top cornerback coming out of high school, King quickly announced his presence as a difference-maker for the Nittany Lions in his first game as a true freshman. His electrifying 61-yard dash on a reverse set up Penn State's first score of the season in the opener against South Florida and laid the foundation for numerous significant contributions on offense, defense and special teams. His efforts in invigorating the offense earned him first-team Freshman All-America honors by The Sporting News as an all-purpose player. He also was named to TSN's Freshman All-Big Ten team. The top Pennsylvania prep player in 2004, King graduated from Gateway HS in 3 1/2 years and enrolled at Penn State in January 2005 along with Derrick Williams and Francis Claude. The experience gained by participating in winter conditioning and spring practice in combination with his many skills, prepared King, like Williams, to be an immediate contributor from the season's first kickoff. Playing in every game, with five starts at wide receiver, King delivered five plays of 25 yards or longer, including the Lions' third and fourth-longest of the season, his 61-yard burst against South Florida and 59-yard scoring strike from Michael Robinson against Cincinnati. The multi-talented King carried the ball 18 times for 227 yards, posting a superlative 12.6 average. He also had 10 receptions for 126 yards and two touchdowns and three kickoff returns for 40 yards. King accumulated 393 yards on just 31 touches for an impressive 12.7 yards per touch. At cornerback, he recorded 11 tackles (nine solo) with two pass breakups. King played on both sides of the ball during the initial seven games, but when Williams suffered a season-ending injury at Michigan, King focused on offense the remainder of the year. In addition to his big plays against South Florida and Cincinnati, King had a big game in the comeback win at Northwestern. He caught a 37-yard touchdown catch and had a 43-yard fourth-quarter reverse, which set up Michael Robinson's eight-yard TD just two plays later, giving Penn State its first lead of the game. King contributed two solo tackles and a pass breakup against Ohio State and made a season-high six stops (five solo) at Michigan. He had two carries for 37 yards at Illinois and four runs for 56 yards against Purdue. He made a season-high five catches against Florida State in the FedEx Orange Bowl. He saw action on 392 snaps, led by 56 against Purdue. King earned Dean's List recognition during the fall 2005 semester.
Rated the nation's top cornerback and the top player in Pennsylvania, King led Gateway HS to an 11-2 mark in his senior season and the Western Pennsylvania District 7 Class AAAA title game. He rushed for 1,902 yards and 33 touchdowns on 208 attempts. King also had nine receptions for 180 yards and three scores. Defensively, he collected 25 tackles and an interception. As a junior, King rushed for 1,763 yards and 29 touchdowns. For his career, he carried the ball 544 times for 4,519 yards, the third-highest total in District 7 Class AAAA history, and scored 59 touchdowns. Nationally recognized, King played in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl, was the 2004 Gatorade Pennsylvania Player-of-the-Year and a first-team all-state selection by numerous media outlets. King shared the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Player-of-the-Year honor and was a member of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Fabulous 22 and the Harrisburg Patriot-News Platinum 33 squads. He was co-winner of the Mercury Award, presented annually to the top player in Western Pennsylvania, and was a Parade All-American. King also was an accomplished sprinter on the track and field team for two years.
Full name is Justin Thomas King. His mother's name is Alison. His stepfather, Terry Smith, was a standout wide receiver at Penn State from 1988-91 and is the head football coach and athletic director at Gateway HS. King has a younger sister, Haley. He is majoring in letters, arts and sciences and is on schedule to graduate in December, three years after enrolling. Born May 11, 1987 in Pittsburgh.
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