The recruiting life of a kicker is never easy, but Jonathan King has placed himself into virtually the best possible position thanks to his recent performance at a national kicking camp in Las Vegas.
At the 10th annual Chris Sailer National Kicking Event held in mid-January on the UNLV campus, King shined as both a punter and placekicker. The Knoxville-area standout from Farragut High School, who already boasts All-State honors and five career 50-plus yard field goals, only enhanced his profile at the elite competition.
King closed his efforts in Vegas as Sailer's No. 2-ranked punter and fourth all-around placekicker. While both rankings are heady placements for the perpetually humble King, he almost scored even better. George Quarles, the record-setting Maryville High School coach who has twice served on the coaching staffs at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, has called King the best high school kicker he has ever seen.
"On Saturday, I won the punt competition based off stats charting. You got 10 punts and you could miss-hit two. I ended up statting the best out of the 2013 class," said the 6-foot-1, 160-pound King, whose accuracy is reflected in nearly 30 punts downed inside foes' 20-yard lines. "He does his field goal points based on a points system. You've got collegiate uprights and arena uprights inside of that. It's two points for the middle, one point for just making it in the collegiate uprights. I ended up scoring a 10, and that number tied for the top eight to get into the finals round. We had to kick, and it was miss or make, in or out, and I hit the right upright from 55 yards.
"I ended up coming out ranked 4th as a kicker and 2nd as a punter. (Sailer) tweeted the other day that I'm the No. 1 combo prospect in the nation as far as being able to do both. That was really cool."
Not surprisingly, the attention has picked up for King since his showing out west. He's been getting consistent mailings from Miami (Fla.), Tennessee, Missouri and others. But most recently, Pac-12 powerhouse Oregon contacted King and let him know that the Ducks are interested in his services.
"The most recent thing I've gotten was from the University of Oregon," King said. "After the Las Vegas camp, Chris Sailer, he actually recommended me to Oregon with two or three other guys. "(Oregon special teams coach Tom Osborne) Emailed me to tell me they're going to offer one of the select few kickers."
Schools such as Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Missouri and Miami, which King said is mailing him virtually every week, Air Force recently, Oregon and FCS power Appalachian State are showing the most interest in the former multi-sport standout and one-time quarterback.
"I've gotten some hand-written letters from coach (Steve) Spurrier, and South Carolina has been showing the most interest, I would say, because I get about as much from them as I do UT, but it seems like they've been more personal and actually football-related and not just random information," said King, who's converted 55 of his first 56 PATs and put roughly 80 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks.
Later this month, King will participate in a Kohl's One-Day Kicking/Training Camp that will actually be hosted at his West Knox school. An honor student and highly regarded by Farragut's coaches and faculty, King expects the experiences from Las Vegas to help him continue to grow as the process marches forward.
"That was definitely awesome. Definitely a humbling experience, too," King said of competing six weeks ago with the country's best specialists. "As far as going out there and kicking with people actually your age, I'd kicked with Zach Sharp and George Bullock, but they graduated and now everybody I'm kicking with is younger than me.
"I don't really have somebody to compete with in practice like when those guys were around, but being able to work with guys who are seniors or my age and going into their senior year, was really cool, too, to see how I fit in with the rest of the kickers in the country.
"It's an eye-opener and makes you want to work harder, too. It pushes you to see what you've done and where you need to be at."