KING FEATURE PHOTO

Jackson County's Andrew King has been a mainstay of the Panther defensive line. 

Andrew King has long been a defensive-minded guy.

“I always wanted to play defense since I was young coming up,” the Jackson County senior said. “… I like to tackle. I like to hit. Defense is just where I’m at.”

Jackson County is glad King feels that way.

The 265-pound defensive lineman returns as an first-team all-region performer and anchor along the Panthers’ defensive front and overall leader for the Jackson County defense.

And King takes leadership on this team — one that’s playing up in Class AAAAA this year and trying to end a three-year playoff drought — very seriously.

“My goals for this season are to be an outstanding player for my team, to be known as a leader, that everybody looked up to me,” King said. “I just want everybody to know that I was that guy that helped motivate everybody, that they could come to for support, they can look over and say ‘He’s got my back.’”

“When I leave here, I want people to know who I was and what I did,” King added.

King has brought a combination of size, strength and speed to the Panther defensive front.

“The size, the strength and the speed, for a kid to have all three is incredible,” Jackson County coach Rich McWhorter said. “Those guys are usually called college football players. He’s not the tallest guy. He doesn’t have a lot of height but he does have all the other intangibles.”

The coach also said King uses his hands well.

“He’s what you want in a high school defensive lineman,” McWhorter said.

McWhorter has coached scores of talented defensive linemen over three decades, including three that played in the NFL.

“He has the same ability they have, with the exception of the height,” McWhorter said of King, who is 5-11.

For his final high school campaign, King — who plans to play in college — said he wants to make sure he tends to the more of the basic, technical aspects of defensive line play, echoing the words of his defensive coordinator, Tyson Baxter.

“Little things mean the most,” King said. “Coach (Tyson) Baxter is always saying little things mean the most. Just get better with my techniques, using my hands a lot more, keying off guards and tackles and all of that.”

He’s also learning a new position — on the offensive side of the ball.

“His speed is so good, we’ve played him some at H-back this year,” McWhorter said, “and he’s done a great job.”

“I like it,” King said of doubling as an H-back. “I’m still trying to get into the groove of it. I really don’t play offense, so it’s a bigger step, something new that I haven’t done before, but I’m prepared for it.”

And it sounds like he could get used to have the ball in his hands.

“They threw me a couple of passes,” King said. “I’m ready to run that thing.”

As for his football future, King said he’s talked with Georgia State, with plans for a visit in the fall.

Regardless of his college destination, King just wants to continue playing football — and for a long time at that.

“Wherever I can go, I’m going to go there and play football as long as I can,” King said. “I’m going to try to go pro. That’s my biggest dream is to go pro.”

McWhorter said he hopes King receives state-wide recognition this year.

“I think he definitely deserves some,” he said. “I think that he can compete with any D-lineman in the state.”

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