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KERSHAW – It’s a new football season and Andrew Jackson senior player Tray King finds himself handling new roles.
King, a three-year starter at outside linebacker, is also working at wide receiver in the Volunteers’ offense.
Then, there’s the leadership role.
King, as a senior veteran, is expected to step to the fore and be a Vols’ leader.
“This year a lot of guys are looking to me,” said King, a 6-2, 190-pounder. “I like the pressure. They expect me to make big plays.”
So far, King has handled the chore.
In AJ’s jamboree play in the annual Founders Kickoff Classic at Buford, King picked off a McBee pass and returned it 74 yards for a score.
The next week in AJ’s opener with county rival Lancaster, King had a blocked punt and return for a 49-yard touchdown. In one motion, he blocked the kick into his stomach and rambled the distance for the score.
That same night against the Bruins, King had 12 total tackles, six tackles for loss, four sacks and broke up a pass.
“We’ve asked a lot of Tray and he’s accepted the challenge,” AJ head coach David Moore said. “He has a lot on his plate, but he also has a lot of upside and ability.”
King’s play should come as no surprise since he’s coming off an all-region junior season which saw him earn the Vols’ Best Linebacker Award.
“We know he has the ability and that’s why we’re looking for more from him as a senior,” Moore said.
“Tray is a tremendous player with a lot of potential. He is smart and athletic, which is a big plus for us,” AJ defensive coordinator Danny Wright said. “This year we look for Tray to be a dominate force on defense with his strength and quickness.
“Defensively, Tray is a terror coming off the edge. He is very hard to stop one-on-one. He broke the sack record last year and he has a chance to break his own record this year.”
A week ago in the Volunteers’ 49-39 loss to Lewisville, King had four tackles, but also was hampered by a knee injury. He will play with a knee brace tonight, but he’s ready to go.
“It was a knee strain, but I know my teammates need me,” he said.
King is also drawing playing time at wide receiver.
“I’ll play where the coaches put me and my team needs me, but I prefer defense,” he said. “I like to hit and make big plays. It’s an adrenaline rush.”
King said he knows any big play, or big hit on the defensive side is going to make Wright happy.
“I love to make him smile with a big play,” King said of Wright who also coaches him in basketball and track. “He’s my mentor and coach.”
King said he hopes he can produce many smiles among the AJ coaches and fans tonight with a win.
“We can play better,” he said. “We had a slow start against Lancaster and then last week at Lewisville, we built a big lead, but got relaxed and they got back in it. We let two games slip away.”
Moore is confident the Vols will come around and King will play a key role.
“We’ve had some growing pains,” Moore said. “We’re getting better each week. As he (King) gets better, we will get better.”
Wright said he expects King to play more football after this season.
“With Tray’s great body frame and quickness, he has an excellent chance to play football at the next level,” Wright said. “If he continues to work hard and stay focused, I can see Tray being the best player in our county and conference.”