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King says XFL restored love of football, but ‘I know I belong’ in the NFL

King went on to offer some motivational words to everyone who has suffered through the inarguably awful 2020.

Marquette Kking

Former XFL St. Louis BattleHawks kicker Marquette King

As for most everyone on the planet, it’s been a tough year mentally, emotionally and professionally for former St. Louis BattleHawks punter Marquette King.

King has been watching this entire awkward NFL season go by from home, posting videos of himself on a high school field, absolutely destroying footballs. Everyone who likes good punting has been clamoring for someone to sign him. Pittsburgh Steelers fans had him trending on Twitter, at one point. He did get a workout with the Dallas Cowboys, but no offer.

He’s over it.

In a video posted to his social media, King reflects back on his time with the St. Louis BattleHawks and remains positive about his NFL prospects for 2021.

“Looks like punting in the XFL helped me find my love for the game again,” he said.

Just a few years prior, King solidified himself as perhaps the best punter in Oakland Raiders history, setting single-season franchise records in punting yards and total punts in 2014, among other accolades. In 2016, the Raiders repaid him with a five-year, $16.5 million extension with $12.5 million guaranteed.

In what was supposed to be the fourth year of that generous deal, King began 2020 in a place he didn’t feel too thankful for — signed to the St. Louis BattleHawks of the revamped XFL.

Instead of the glamorous NFL lifestyle he was accustomed to out west, King arrived on a freezing cold day to find a locker in an overcrowded, no-frills clubhouse at the Lou Fusz Athletic Training Center in Earth City, Mo.

He was there because he loves kicking footballs, he told a reporter.

“I felt like I didn’t belong in that situation,” King said. “I felt like me being an All-Pro, I should be in the NFL right now, which is still a true statement. But, you know, God puts you in certain positions and what you think is not good for you, or the position you don’t want to be in — you never know, that might be the position you need to be in to help thrust you to that next level you’re looking to get to.”

King quickly became a fan favorite in St. Louis, taking stage for in-game interviews over the PA at The Dome at America’s Center, pumping up football-rabid St. Louis crowds of nearly 30,000.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, King even took to Twitter one boring day in St. Louis to look for a barbecue. He found one, posting photos and video of himself and teammates Taylor Russolino and Tanner Carew cooking out at the home of an excited BattleHawks fan.

But then the virus ruined everything. For everyone. King’s final play of the shortened season was all-too symbolic. With a backup long-snapper in the game, DC Defenders linebacker Jameer Thurman sliced through the line and stuffed the kick. King was hit hard, and limped to the sideline.

The season ended with King the top punter in the XFL. In Dallas, King kicked a ball 63 yards that former Colts punter-turned podcaster Pat McAfee, reporting from the sidelines, called a lazer.

“You saw just a piece of perfection right there,” McAfee said on the broadcast.

Surely, even with the shortened season, he had done enough to earn his way back into the NFL.

Nope.

“I ain’t going to lie,” he said. “After the XFL and seeing everybody else at my position play, it’s like, ‘Damn, man, I know I belong.'”

King admits he’s considered retiring after being left out of the NFL in 2020. There’ve been times he’s felt purposely overlooked. But he credits the encouragement of the people around him for keeping him motivated.

“Now, it’s to the point of, ‘You know what? Don’t stop,’ he said. “Don’t let anybody dictate how far you go with it. It’s not over until the fat lady sings. It’s not over until it’s over. Me being 32, … I’ll go until I’m 50. I’m not going to stop until I want to stop.”

King went on to offer some motivational words to everyone who has suffered through the inarguably awful 2020.

“Even though your 2020 probably wasn’t what you wanted it to be, I think you all should finish 2020 the way you want 2021 to start,” he said. “Keep going from there. Keep that momentum carrying you through 2021, and just keep being the best you that you can be.”

Nathan Woodside is based in the Metro East suburbs of St. Louis. He has 15-plus years of experience reporting, editing, photographing and designing sports and news, on all platforms for outlets that include Hearst Newspapers and GateHouse Media. He was a sideline reporter and photographer for the St. Louis BattleHawks in 2020. He has collected multiple awards from the Illinois and Missouri Press Associations, as well as the Associated Press Media Editors of Illinois. Reach him on Twitter @nathanwoodside or at nathan_woodside@yahoo.com.

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