SACRAMENTO — When Ron Gould was named head football coach in December, his first order of business was to talk to some of the Aggies’ senior leaders to help acclimate himself to the culture at UC Davis.
One of those leaders was senior defensive end Nick King, who has been a major contributor to the Aggie defense this year. King finished out his career Saturday night with five solo tackles and two sacks in UCD’s 34-7 victory over Sacramento State, giving him and his classmates wins in all four Causeway Classics they have played.
“It’s been a great experience,” King said of his time in Davis. “I’m so happy I came here. I’m so happy about the people that I’ve met. Like I said, everyone on my team, they’re my best friends; and I’m so thankful to be part of such a great community. That’s the one thing I love is the community feeling, and I feel like this win was for the community.”
King has been viewed as a leader from the beginning of this season. In Gould’s captains system there are two permanent spots and two that rotate for each game. King and offensive lineman Jimmy Kunkel filled the permanent spots in 2013.
“It’s meant a lot (to be a captain),” King said after his team finished the season at 5-7 overall including 5-3 in the rugged Big Sky Conference. “It’s been hard though, to be honest; the season hadn’t turned out to be exactly what we wanted, so I felt like a lot of that came down on me as a captain. I took all those losses really hard.”
On the field, King was one of the main cogs in an Aggie defense that was by far to most consistent UCD unit this season. But when it comes to leadership, King was just as big of a help to the local offense, especially quarterback Randy Wright.
After three years as a starter, Wright was benched following a Week 1 loss at South Dakota. It was King who helped keep his fellow senior motivated, and Wright went on to win back his starting job and finish a record-setting career in strong fashion.
“Me and Randy came in together, and he’s a great guy,” King said. “I told him that I believed in him. I just wanted to tell him that I loved him, and that I supported him. I thought that was really important, to show that I was there, not just because he was the starting quarterback, but as a friend and as a brother, I would always be there for him.”
King knew a little something about being relegated to the bench, as his first few years in an Aggie uniform didn’t include a ton of playing time. He finally got a chance to shine last season, and took advantage, recording 48 tackles, 14 of them for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
But even when he wasn’t filling up the statsheet, he was getting support from his two biggest fans — parents John and Perry King.
“I’ve played football since I was in fifth grade and my parents have been to every game, even when I wasn’t starting,” King said. “They made me feel like I was a starter, the entire time. They’ve been everything for me. They’ve always been the loudest, it’s almost embarrassing at times, but they’ve done everything for me, they’ve been there for me, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Despite facing constant double teams from a Hornet squad that had seen the havoc he had wreaked all season, King still managed to dominate in his career finale on Saturday. In making two big sacks, King showed his versatility by blowing past his blocker for his first one and bullying his way to the quarterback for his second.
With the impressive outing, King ended his season by making 57 tackles, seven for loss, eight sacks, two fumble recoveries and two passes deflected. The numbers give King 110 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in his Aggie career.
As for his plans after graduation, King, a sociology major, isn’t quite there yet.
“That’s a good question,” King said when asked about his future. “Next week I’m probably going to talk to coach Gould and my defensive line coach to kind of see what my options for the future in terms of professional football.”
And it sure seems like this King is in for a longer reign.
— Reach Thomas Oide at firstname.lastname@example.org