Back in the summer of 2013, Marquette King was a raw, untested talent. He’d spent 2012 on the Oakland Raiders’ injured reserve list and was going head-to-head with veteran free-agent Chris Kluwe in hopes of winning the team’s punting job following the departure of longtime standout Shane Lechler.
The Raiders loved King’s leg strength and booming punts, but weren’t certain he could be a consistent performer.
In August during that training camp, King – who had been an unsigned free agent from little Fort Valley State – said he knew he had the talent to win the job, but simply had to perform under pressure.
“I’m not competing against anybody but myself,” King told a reporter. “True enough, it’s a competition (with Kluwe), but I’m competing against myself and I’m pretty sure he’s competing against himself.”
In the end, King came through. Kluwe was released and King has been the Raiders’ punter since the start of the 2013 season.
It certainly was the right choice. King has averaged 46.1 yards per punt and developed into one of the league’s best young punters. Now, the Raiders have invested in him again, signing him to a long-term contract extension just a week before he was to become an unrestricted free agent.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, the deal is for five years and $16.5 million.
Since winning the punting job, King has improved each season. He’s still capable of unleashing long, hanging punts when necessary, but has refined his game to fit every situation.
In 2015, he set a Raiders record by putting 40 of his 83 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That was the second-best total in the NFL. In some games, he’s been one of the Raiders’ biggest weapons. In Oakland’s victory over the eventual Super Bowl-champion Broncos in early December, King punted 10 times, pinning Denver inside its 20 five times. Denver’s field position was so poor, it couldn’t score a touchdown in a 15-12 Raiders victory.
On Monday, when the Raiders announced King’s new contract, King said his improvement is the result of hours and hours of work.
“When I first came in, the only thing I did have was a driver,” he said to the team’s website, comparing his game to golf. “Even when I played golf, all I wanted to do was drive the ball as far as I can, still. When I got better with the punting deal, I focused on punting the ball in the trash can, putting the trash can in the corners of the field … just aim and try to put the ball in the trash can.
“Constantly doing little drills like that, focusing on walking around the field, dropping the ball on the lines, but doing it to the point where I just got exhausted … and aggravated from doing so many drills, to where it became second nature.”
All that work paid off for the Raiders, and now it's paid off for King, too, in 16.5 million ways.