As the dust settles from a whirlwind draft weekend, Packers fans everywhere are enjoying  pouring over the highlights from the newest crop of rookie Packers.  Doing the same, I found there was one story that I just can’t shake: The story of Kalen King and his fall from being considered one of the top Corners in football to being selected at the bottom of the 7th round. I am fascinated by this story! Here’s what I’ve learned so far (Credit to Dane Brugler):

Kalen King: Origins

Kalen King has a twin brother Kobe, both born and raised in Detroit. The brothers played sports together growing up and gravitated towards football around age 5. Growing up as a Cornerback in Michigan Wolverines country, Kalen King idolized Charles Woodson and wore No. 2 to honor him. He attended Detroit’s Cass Technical School and was a four-year varsity letterman in football, helping the program achieve back-to-back conference titles his freshman and sophomore years. Kalen was a team captain and earned All-State honors in both of his final two years. Kalen also ran track and was one of the leading scorers on the Cass Tech basketball team.

King was a four-star recruit coming out of high school and was the No. 16 Cornerback in the 2021 recruiting class and the No. 8 recruit in Michigan (the No. 1 Defensive Back in the state). Iowa State sent Kalen his first offer after his freshman year of high school.  Michigan’s offer arrived after his sophomore season. Kalen and Kobe were considered a package deal, and they announced a final five of Arkansas, Iowa, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. Despite growing up as Michigan fans, they developed close relationships with the Penn State coaching staff. Micah Parsons hosted them during their official visit, and that sealed the deal. King was the No. 2 recruit in Penn State’s 2021 recruiting class.

Kalen King: College Years

A two-year starter, King was an Outside Cornerback in Penn State’s split-coverage scheme. He put himself on the NFL radar with an outstanding 2022 season where he was No. 3 in college football with 21 passes defended. After that season, Kalen looked like a future first-round pick. Kalen’s 2023 season, however, produced just 2 passes defended (though, in fairness, he saw fewer targets) and struggled against the top opponents on his schedule. Most notably, Kalen held up poorly against Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr, the top Wide Receiver in the 2024 draft. These struggles continued in the pre-draft process. At the Senior Bowl King struggled in the 1-on-1 drills, and he ran slower than desired at the NFL Combine (although he did improve his times slightly at his pro day).

Kalen King: Green Bay Packer

The volatility of Kalen’s football career shows both the promise and the risk in projecting his path in the NFL. If you heard his post-draft media call with the Green Bay writers, you heard the disappointment and heartache Kalen experienced after watching 254 players (and 35 Cornerbacks) selected ahead of him.

Kalen said it was “one of the toughest things I’ve mentally had to endure in my life” and vowed to play with a permanent chip on his shoulder to prove to the world the real player he is. Kalen added “the Packers are going to get one of the most competitive guys in the country, a tough Corner, physical Corner who’s going to give 100% effort around the field at all times and make as many plays as I possibly can by doing it at 100%.”

Motivation is everything in sports. I will be watching Kalen’s offseason and training camp closely to see if he can join the ranks of recent Packers like Rasheed Walker and Carrington Valentine who were able to make an immediate impact despite being drafted in the 7th round.  As the old adage goes: It’s not how you start that counts, it’s how you finish. I, for one, will be rooting for Kalen to finish strong.