When Justin King arrived on campus as a freshman at UT, he came in knowing that his football career was taking a turn in a new direction. Not only was he playing in the nation's premier conference for college football, he was adjusting to life at a completely new position as a tight end/H-back in the Vols' offense. "I was playing quarterback, I was running the offense, the triple option and just trying to win games," King said. "I'm not saying I'm a soft player, but at first in high school, I'm behind center so I'm not used to getting hit. So when I first got up here my freshman year, it was kind of like a shock to me. Like 'oh snap', I'm getting hit hard, so right now I'm getting used to it going against C-Mil (defensive lineman Corey Miller), Marlon Walls, all these great defensive ends we have here."
Not only has King had to adjust to the physicality of playing the tight end role, but — due to his role as a high school quarterback — his pass-catching experience in football had been limited until he stepped foot on UT's campus."I only caught two passes in high school," King said. "And one was for a reverse pass, I caught that in the region championship game, so it was special."
Although he is new to his position, King is not letting his inexperience as a blocker and pass-catcher inhibit him from giving his all on the field. "I got to buy in, I can't complain about anything," King said. "They want me to block, I'm going to block, if they want me to run routes, I'll run routes, I'm here to play for this university, this coaching staff and play for my teammates."
It is that attitude and effort that has had King practicing with the first and second team offenses during the Vols' spring practice. King's position coach, Mark Elder, has noticed King's dedication."I'll be coming back here going to set up my meeting for the next day ... it'll be 9:30 at night and he's in there watching film," Elder said. "So as far as that's concerned, he wants to be great and he's working hard at it."
While King gives his all on the field, off the field he prefers to keep to himself, living a fairly laid-back lifestyle. "This whole team calls me 'old man,' because I just sit in my recliner in my room and watch Netflix," King said. "I really don't go out, I'm an in-home guy. I go out sometimes if they make me, but other than that I'm a Netflix, PS3 (Playstation 3) guy. I love FIFA, football here and there, 'Call of Duty.' I like watching movies. I just like to chill."Although King carries the "Old Man" nickname, he does not feel that that moniker is completely accurate."I like action. I love action (movies)," King said. "And I might sound crazy but I like animation, like 'Finding Nemo.' I'm kind of a little kid, but they call me 'old man,' I don't know why."
King's studies also differentiate him from the sports management and communications majors that are prominent in college athletics and he has a special reason for that."I'm a special ed major," King said. "I was just in a program back in high school and I really fell in love with those guys and the teachers that were involved in the special ed program. That's one thing my heart just told me that was what I needed to go into and that's what I'm doing."