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Undersized linebacker fools foes

PSU's Joey King makes teams pay if they don't take him seriously

At 5-10, 200 pounds, Joey King is used to getting second looks or being overlooked because of the position he plays for the Portland State football team linebacker.

Too small, too light. Is this guy for real?

King, a sophomore competing for a starting job at inside linebacker, takes it all in stride.

'I'm lucky enough to be blessed with a mix of power and speed. I can bring a lot of force to plays in a way that says, 'I'm not just a little guy who doesn't need to be taken seriously,' ' says King, who hails from Spokane. 'That can be intimidating to opponents.'

King is primed to be a defensive standout for the Vikings because of his 4.5 speed, 42-inch vertical leap and 400-pound bench presses.

And his passion.

'I think of him as an NFL-type player who's trapped inside a 5-10 body,' linebacker coach Tony Cichoke says. 'If he was just a couple inches taller, I would definitely see him as an NFL player.'

'If he were a couple inches taller, he wouldn't be playing at the Division I-AA level,' PSU coach Tim Walsh says. 'But he's still got a ways to go before he gets to the NFL; he's got some things to take care of here. And we're going to learn a lot more about him this year.'

King and the rest of the Vikings are preparing for their season opener Sept. 4 against Texas A&M-Kingsville at PGE Park.

King played in all 11 games as a redshirt freshman last season, making 21 tackles as a nickel back or on special teams. He worked his way into playing time simply by being around the ball all the time in practice and in games something coaches love.

'At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how big you are or how fast you can run, it comes down to how many plays can you make?' Walsh says. 'Joey makes plays, that's why he got into games.'

King, who won a slam dunk competition on campus last year, moved from safety to linebacker for his senior season in high school and the position stuck, mostly because his coaches wanted to utilize his skills more often to stop opponents. Walsh sees the value in that logic.

Teams that run at him because of his size will find a fireplug of a defender who has maxed out on the PSU weightlifting program for players his size and does not get run over. Teams that run away from him will find a fleet-footed defender who can chase down nimble running backs.

Tolo Tuitele, a junior, is expected to start at one of two linebacker spots. King and Gary Torre, a senior, are competing for the other starting job.

Walsh says he plans to hold King to a certain amount of plays per game early in the season because he doesn't want King to wear down.

'As he does more things and can take more plays, he's going to work his way onto the field more often,' Walsh says.

King says he's confident the Vikings will improve on last year's 6-5 record whether he's on the field or not.

'People look at us as an unproven team that lost 28 letterwinners, but I think we're going to be better,' he says. 'We have a lot of athletic guys who are ready to step up. If people look at us as the underdogs, that's OK. We're going to sneak up on them.'

Contact Cliff Pfenning at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .