INDIANAPOLIS | Jarriel King came here hoping to bury the past, to put a disappointing and disheartening season behind him.
However, King, speaking Thursday at the NFL Combine in Lucas Oil Stadium, admitted it was difficult for him to handle the end of his career at South Carolina.
“I deserved to play, but I didn’t,” the former Gamecocks offensive lineman said.
King started seven consecutive games at left tackle before sustaining a concussion against Arkansas on Nov. 6. He was expected to return the next week against Florida but did not make the trip to Gainesville because of the concussion, team officials said, and he never returned to the starting lineup. Kyle Nunn started the final five games.
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King said Thursday that he was completely healthy after the Florida game and felt he should have returned to the starting lineup.
“After (the concussion), honestly, I don’t get why I wasn’t playing,” he said. “I was perfectly fine after that. I was practicing hard; I was working hard; I was doing everything right. I asked (offensive line coach Shawn Elliott) why I wasn’t playing, and he said there was no drop-off at my position at the time, which, I mean, I am not saying (Nunn) was horrible, but I know I’m not a bad athlete. I know I can get in there and do the job. I know I’m a good player. I know I’m a really good athlete.”
King’s understanding from Elliott was that Nunn was playing just as well as he had and there was no need to make another change to the starting lineup, he said.
“Even though it doesn’t add up to me, that’s what he told me,” King said. “You’d have to ask him about that. Basically he said Kyle was doing good enough and there was no need for me. That’s what I got out of it.”
King called Nunn “a (heck) of a tackle” and said he rooted for Nunn to do well when he was in the game, but said he was bitter about the decision.
“I looked at it like, I’m a senior, this is my year, I am busting my behind trying to get here, I stayed out of trouble, did everything they asked me to do. Maybe I didn’t play the way they wanted me to play all the time, but I never gave them any grief about anything. I never gave them a problem to say, ‘Well, Jarriel is a bad character or Jarriel doesn’t deserve (this).’ I never gave them a reason to say Jarriel doesn’t deserve anything. But I have learned a lot of life lessons. One thing I have learned is what’s done is done, just focus on what you have at hand and make the best of it.”
King has plenty of reasons to play the what-if game. He considered leaving school after his junior season, and he knows the senior season he had probably means he will be selected lower in the NFL draft now than if he had left school a year ago.
“I am just trying to get myself back on the map,” he said. “I just wanted to re-establish myself as a dominant athlete, showcase my talents. The only thing I can worry about right now is the combine, pro day, interviews, stuff like that just to get myself back on the board.”
He doesn’t regret returning for his senior season, he said.
“Some people say you should have come out, you would have been better off coming out, but that’s from their perspective,” he said. “My perspective is I want to handle my business as a man first and get my degree, finish my season. I don’t want to leave any doubt, any regret, like, ‘If I had stayed another year, I could have done this.’ I stayed another year, this is how it turned out, (and) I’m not going to turn back and look on it.”
King, a sociology major, graduated in December. While lamenting his fate, King also praised Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier, calling Spurrier “cutthroat” but honest and fair.
“One time he saw me make a bad play and said, ‘You know what Jarriel? You are not the player I thought you were. You can be, but I don’t know if you want it yet. I don’t know what you’re doing.’ Most people would look at it as, ‘He’s a butthole,’ but he’s being real. I can’t fault him for telling me the truth.”
King was recruited to Columbia by Lou Holtz’s staff and knew Spurrier only by reputation when Spurrier was hired in 2005. That reputation proved to be mostly right, King said.
“He demands it, but also he shows it,” King said. “It’s not like you can get it confused. He’s not the kind of guy who will lead you on a blind trail. He will tell you exactly what it is. He is straightforward and cutthroat. If he feels a certain way, he’ll tell you. He’s a dang good coach.”
King, who stands 6-foot-5, weighed in at 317 pounds Thursday at the combine. He will have meetings with teams and undergo physical and cognitive testing Friday before going through physical workouts on Saturday.
“I need to come out here and kill the combine,” he said. “I need to show my athleticism, basically, and just do my best. People ask me, ‘What do you think you will do here?’ Honestly, I don’t know what I will do here. I tell you what I will do is my best. I will give it everything I’ve got.”