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Sunday, July 12, 2020

Football

Fit for a King, freshman at home in Houston


(Joe Buvid / For Houston Athletics)

On Sept. 24, King became the first Cougar in history to record a receiving, return and passing touchdown in a single game. | Courtesy of UH Athletics

First-year utility man D’Eriq King is one of smallest and least experienced players on the football team this season. Despite his size compared to his teammates and opponents, King is making an immediate impact and helping the Cougars to their 6-1 start.

King compensates for his lack of height with unprecedented athletic ability. In his three seasons as the starting quarterback for Manvel High School, he threw 126 touchdowns while throwing just 16 interceptions. Adding 37 career touchdowns on the ground, it was a matter of time before the nation’s top college football programs came calling.

Going from high school to a prime time college football is a touch transition for anyone. The freshman says that his experience in high school is helping make his transition to college smoother.

“Playing at Manvel, we were playing at the highest level in Texas, 6A,” King said. “We had a lot of big games and a lot of packed crowds. And that just helped me translate to the college game better.”

The dual-threat quarterback was heavily recruited by big-time programs such as Baylor University, Clemson University, Michigan State University, the University of California Los Angeles and Texas Christian University.

“D’Eriq was a guy that a lot of big schools were looking at as a quarterback/athlete,” Applewhite said. “He really wanted an opportunity to play quarterback.”

Because of his size, many schools viewed King more as an athlete than a quarterback, and for this reason could not guarantee he would get a shot as signal caller.

King verbally committed to TCU before deciding to decommit and come to Houston, in part due to his desire to play his high school position.

It didn’t take much to convince King to stay in Houston.

“We told him ‘Hey, you lead the 6A record (for) touchdowns thrown,” Applewhite said. “We don’t let height or things like that get in the way of a great player, especially at that position. You can come over here and play quarterback. We’d love to have you.’

Applewhite saw King’s potential and had interest in getting him to stay close to home and attend UH. With senior Greg Ward Jr. having just one year of eligibility remaining, King could learn from a quarterback whose game resembles his own.

Coupled with the fact he’s a “hometown guy” and wanted to stay close to his parents, King knew he would feel right at home with the Cougars.

“I feel like it’s a better fit for me offensively,” King said. “Coach Herman and Coach Applewhite are two great coaches and I just wanted to play for those guys.”

King knew he would have to wait his turn to get a shot at quarterback.

However, due to a multitude of injuries on the Cougar offense, he has seen a lot of time at slot receiver. King has started two games at receiver and has appeared in all seven of the Cougars’ games.

The freshman phenom has 22 receptions for 170 yards and a touchdown so far. He is the fourth-leading receiver on the team, averaging 28.3 yards per game.

Applewhite says that although King was recruited as a quarterback, his switch to receiver for this season wasn’t hard because of his football intelligence.

“(The transition) is only hard if you don’t have football intelligence,” Applewhite said. “He’s got great football intelligence. He understands everything because he’s played the quarterback position. So he understands routes, spacing and timing and where he needs to be.”

The coaches are also impressed with King’s poise and maturity.

As a true freshman in his first collegiate game, he came in and fielded punts and returned kicks against the University of Oklahoma with no sense of nervousness and complete confidence.

No matter what is asked of him, King’s focus is resting solely on helping his team.

“I just try to do my job,” King said. “I don’t want to say that I impacted them positively. I’m just here doing what they tell me to do and trying to do everything to help the team.”

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