Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
If you thought Georgia Tech's Brenton King looked cool as a cucumber as he settled in to try a 25-yard field goal early last Saturday night at Clemson with more than 80,000 fans howling in Memorial Stadium, you were on the money.
So was the freshman from Mill Creek High School in Gwinnett County.
He made the kick, and that's all he's done since taking over placekicking duties for sophomore Shawn Davis. King's made all four field goals and all four PATs that he's tried since Davis suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 14 at Miami.
King's 5-for-5 on field goals in his young career, having also made one in Tech's win over North Carolina on Sept. 30.
"It was definitely a unique experience," King said of the environment at Clemson. "It was loud and everything, but it didn't really feel that crazy to me."
King played for one of the biggest high schools in the state, and while the crowds there hardly compared to the one at Clemson, his kicking has been largely the same in college.
A soccer player first, the 6-0, 167-pound King gave football a try as a high school freshman, and by his junior year he was the man at Mill Creek. He made 19-of-24 field goals that season, and 11-of-14 as a senior with a long of 56 yards.
-- Alan Stewart (@BT514) September 10, 2016
MaxPreps.com tabbed King a first-team high school all-American last year, and he considered several schools, including Georgia Tech, Georgia, South Carolina and Louisville.
He received a scholarship offered from Old Dominion, and committed to the Monarchs last December even though he admitted he'd prefer to stay closer to home.
Then, dominoes started tipping.
About a week before national signing day on Feb. 1, another prized kicking prospect backed off his commitment to Tech.
Tech coaches were well aware of King.
"He came to our [summer] camp . . . so we knew about him," recalled head coach Paul Johnson. "We had another kicker who'd committed fairly early. Actually, he'd probably been committed over a year so we were only going to take one kicker, but we knew Brenton.
"He had a good senior year, and when the other kid decided he wasn't coming, we went to Brenton and offered him and he decided he wanted to come."
Soon after accepting Tech's offer, King said at the time that his decision, "took about 10 seconds."
It took longer to become Georgia Tech's kicker.
King entered summer practice in competition with Davis for the right to replace Harrison Butker, the leading scorer in school history. It didn't help that King was slowed in August by a groin injury, and Davis, a walk-on from Union Grove High in McDonough, won the job.
"It was upsetting at first, but Shawn was doing a great job," King said. "I was upset with it, but he deserved it."
Davis missed a field goal and had another tipped in the season opener against Tennessee. The competition remained open before Tech played Jacksonville State the following Saturday.
Again, Davis kicked and King watched. All the while, King continued to learn from Davis and fifth-year senior kicker Bennett Barton. They were both schooled up as backups while working with Butker, who's now excelling for the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs.
"Watching from the sidelines gave me really good game experience, and [Davis] showed me the ropes of how to go out through pre-game and get the kicks in, showed me just the flow of the game," King explained.
Johnson sent King out for a 25-yard field goal against North Carolina and it was good, giving a 27-0 Tech lead in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Not long after Davis was injured making a tackle on a kickoff at Miami in the next game, King's 31-yarder pushed the Jackets' lead to 24-13.
"Lucas . . . that's who I tried out with in camp," he said. "Our personalities kind of mesh really well. I trust him back there holding the ball, and I know we have one of the best snappers [in Casey Wilson]."
King added field goals of 22 and 42 yards in Tech's win over Wake Forest and he's quite comfortable with the Jackets' snap-hold-kick operation, saying, "It's perfect almost every time."
Yet he wants to improve his kickoffs.
Kicking off from the home 40-yard-line in high school, King booted touchbacks on 69-of-83 kickoffs as a senior, and 128-of-173 in his career.
Working from the 35 in college, he has one touchback in 13 kickoffs.
"I want to get my kickoffs more consistent, more in the end zone than I have been," he said. "In practice, I probably get most of them between the 1-yard line and two yards deep."