Raiders' Marquette King punts, dances, has fun

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Dressed in camouflage, Marquette King greeted a visitor at his offseason home this week with a request. He asked that the location of his bachelor pad remain undisclosed.

"I’m like Batman," King told USA TODAY Sports. "I don’t want to let them know where I’m at."

But the NFL’s only African-American punter, who occasionally dresses up as Superman and the Green Power Ranger, is perfectly happy that more people have discovered who he is. King, 28 and in his fifth year with the Oakland Raiders, has proven to be as adept at attracting attention as he is at punting footballs.

During Oakland’s 30-20 victory over the Denver Broncos on Nov. 6, for example, King celebrated punts by mimicking a cowboy riding a horse and performing windmill-arm dance. Video of his dance moves went viral, and King suggested his celebrations are almost involuntary.

"It’s like drinking a Coca-Cola," he said while enjoying a final day off during the Raiders’ bye week. "You drink it and it’s like, ‘Ahhhh.’ It’s like a release."

For King, there’s been plenty to celebrate of late.

With the Raiders off to a 7-2 start, he has continued to emerge as one of the best, and unquestionably the most entertaining, punters in the league. He signed a five-year, $16.5 million contract extension in February and then spent a chunk of that money here on his six-bedroom home.

In the living room, a stuffed Elmo sits nestled into the corner of a leather couch. King explained that he won the doll while playing a coin-operated, claw arcade game.

"First try," King said, beaming. "I remember (Elmo) from when I was little. So I felt like, ‘He’s familiar. He can chill.' "

On the walls of the house, King said, more than a half-dozen photos of him in his football uniform serve a purpose.

"Sometimes, it’s like a dream," King said of his life. "Then I get a chance to look at the pictures and I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I play for the Raiders.' "

His path to the pros was unlikely. King, one of only a handful of African-American punters in NFL history, played wide receiver while attending Rutland High School in Macon, Ga.

While practicing receiver routes on his own, King said, he grew bored and started punting. He fell in love and soon took over as his high school’s team’s punter.

"There’d be times in practice where he’d punt them so high and far, it would stop practice," said Lance Perlman, then head coach at Rutland High. "Guys would be looking and go, ‘Holy cow.’ He’s putting them up in the atmosphere."

But King’s powerful leg went largely overlooked by college coaches, partly because Rutland is a small high school that draws few recruiters and partly because Rutland’s offense was so good King punted only five times his senior year.

So upon graduating in 2008, King walked on at Fort Valley (Ga.) State, a historically black college. He later earned a scholarship and celebrated after punts like the 80-yarder he once uncorked on his way to the NFL.

Signed in 2012 by the Raiders as an undrafted free agent, King won the starting job the next year. But he said he felt stifled until the arrival of Jack Del Rio, who took over as the Raiders head coach in 2015.

King, who said the previous coaching staff discouraged him from celebrating, got approval from Del Rio’s staff to cut loose again.

"I felt like somebody put helium in my body or something because I felt so free," King said. "If you can be yourself, you play light. I feel more powerful on the field. I feel, I don’t know, I’m just in a happy place."

Almost everybody seems to be happy with King these days. After all, he’s averaging 48.4 yards per punt, fifth-best in the league; averaging 41.8 yards net per punt, tied for sixth-best in the league; and has landed 21 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, tied for third-best in the league.

And, of course, he leads the league in post-punt celebrations.

"I’ve always been dancing, man," King said. "I’ve had coaches in the past tell me, ‘You need to calm down. The punter position, you just do your job and walk off the field.’ And I’m like, ‘What?’

"I mean, I just put this ball inside the 10 and you think I’m fixing to walk off the field like nothing ain’t happened? Shoot, I’m fixing to enjoy this."

Greg Coleman, the first African-American punter in the NFL, said he approves of King’s style.

"He has great talent and an ability and a personality to match," said Coleman, who played in the NFL from 1977-88. "You just love to see players have fun in the National Football League with so many restrictions (imposed by the league)."

Yet King said he knows some people object to his style — and he has no plans to change.

"Bro," he said, "I don’t want to be like everybody else."

PHOTOS | Marquette King

Follow Josh Peter on Twitter @joshlpeter11.


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