Marquette King is electric, eclectic, eccentric and eurythmic.
And he’s perhaps the best and best-known all-around punter in the NFL.
However, as King sat in an Englewood hotel room in May, he felt all alone.
So, as Marquette told me Saturday after Broncos practice, he began to play piano on a computer program and sang to himself: ”It’s hard to think sometimes, I’m move to another city. When I think sometimes I wish I had someone with me. ... When I blink sometimes, I wish I could snap back to reality.”
The electronic dance music song has become a hit.
March 30 was a miss when his professional and personal world turned upside down.
“I’d never talked to (new Raiders’ coach) Jon Gruden, so I headed into the headquarters to work out and meet him and (new special teams coordinator) Rick Bisaccia. I stopped and bought a (24-count) box of Snickers for Gruden and two bottles of limoncello for Rick Bisaccia. Maybe make a good first impression. But nobody was in the office. I didn’t realize the league meeting was happening (in Orlando).
“Then I got a call from (general manager) Reggie (McKenzie), my man, and he said he really hated to tell me, but I was being released that day. I told Marshawn (Lynch) I was gone, and he said “Don’t be lying to me.’ At noon, it was announced.’’
In 2016 King was named to the Pro Bowl. In 2017 he received the most fan votes for the game, but finished second among players’ and coaches’ balloting. He was an alternate.
In 2018, at 29, he had no job.
That cut was the deepest for Marquette, who had been the Oakland punter for every game since 2013 and had set franchise record for punts inside the 20 (156), surpassing Hall of Famer Ray Guy. King had signed a five-season, $16.5 million extension two years earlier.
Six days later he signed a three-year deal for $6 million, plus incentives, with the Raiders’ and his dreaded rival — the Broncos.
He was sleeping in the enemy’s camp.
“I always wanted to kick (pun intended) the Broncos’ (derriere). It was special. Now, it’s the other way around. I want revenge.’’
In games in Denver, King had gross yardage of 52.5, 46.44, 46.0, 56.5 and 51.0 (50.43 average). “I did well against the Broncos in Oakland, too.’’
Especially on Nov. 6, 2016 and “Sunday Night Football” in Oakland, when Marquette made a marquee name for himself nationally and an obscene name for himself among Broncos’ faithful. With 8:39 remaining in the third quarter and the Raiders leading 20-10, King punted from the Denver 42, and the ball was downed on the 2-yard line.
Marquette King did an impression of a man riding and whipping a horse as he left the field. The headlines referred to his antics as The Pony — or, forbid, The Donkey — Dance. “I was trying to copy the dance moves of Von (Miller).’’ The adversaries laughed about the incident after the game.
Now, they are teammates and close friends. Will there be a Raiders’, or Gruden, Dance? Marquette is not saying.
On his next punt in that critical victory the ball again was caught by a Raiders player at the 2, and a Broncos’ penalty pushed them back to the 1. King also had a 51-yarder.
His career longest is 72 yards. He has punted 87 yards in practices. The NFL mark is 98 yards — by the Jets’ Steve O’Neal in 1969 — from 1-yard line to 1-yard line.
In old Mile High Stadium.
Marquette is booming 70-yarders regularly in training camp, and the thousands of orange-clad zealots turn their eyes away from one field to the other when King attempts to put punts in a bucket at the corner of the goal line. The coffin-corner punt of olden day has gone away, but he’s reviving it. When he does that end-over-end punt instead of a spiral, it’s almost as if he’s hitting an 8-iron in golf and trying to back up the ball. Marquette is an accomplished golfer and is emulating the concept.
“I always check the wind. If I want it to go left, slice the ball like in golf, I’ll drop it on the outside of my foot. You must be precise, but I love the challenge of doing it.’’
When a Broncos’ backer recently asked on Twitter if he should buy a jersey with King’s name on the back, the punter replied with this tweet. “I would wait. Big time position competition!’’ No other punter is on the 90-man roster.
Marquette is a social media stirrer with his comments about video games, cartoons, music and life in general. He is a joy to be around. (I met him the week of the Broncos’ Super Bowl championship.) Yet, the media in Oakland and Denver have been taken aback by his “I don’t want to talk about football’’ responses after games and at the current training camp. One radio interview the past week lasted 90 seconds, and Marquette was roasted by listeners.
“Hey, I have days, but I really don’t spend a lot of time thinking about football. I like being alone on the practice field. I’m usually thinking about music and singing. But I get serious when I’m involved when I’m punting and in the scrimmages. It’s all football then.’’
He’s misunderstood because King dances to the beat of his own drummer and has varied interests, but Marquette will become one of Orange Country’s favorite players when Coloradans get to know the intelligent, insightful, intuitive, funny punter — and see him punt high and long — unlike the most recent line-drive guy. “I really don’t feel that much difference in the ball at altitude’’ despite the previous numbers.
“Football is a game, and I want to have fun playing it.’’ What’s normal?
A Broncos’ executive said to me: “Marquette could be our second most important offseason veteran addition behind Case Keenum.’’
With the Raiders, King wore No. 7, which is impossible with the Broncos, although Marquette considered offering John Elway, who pulled off a heist of serious proportions by landing the punter, a helicopter if he could wear “7.’’
Instead, Marquette King’s jersey number could be most appropriate this season.