It’s been nine years since Habersham Central graduate Tavarres King took the field as a high school player and almost four years since he caught passes from Aaron Murray at the University of Georgia. Now, the 26-year-old will be suiting up as a member of the New York Giants.
King received the news he’d survived the final cut Saturday as teams around the league made their last adjustments to get down to the mandated 53-man rosters.
For King, it was his first team made coming out of fall camp.
“It was a weight lifted off my shoulders,” King said. “I was excited. It’s something I’ve been striving to do since entering the league.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound wide receiver has only been in the league for three years since being drafted by the Denver Broncos in the fifth round (161st pick) in the 2013 draft, but it’s already been a long journey. He’s also spent time on the practice squads or active rosters of Denver, Carolina, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay.
Despite being a member of five different organizations in three years, King said it’s helped him grow and mature.
“Because of my career path, I’ve been with so many phenomenal coaches and players,” King said. “Guys like Peyton Manning, Cam Newton, John Fox, Mike Shula, Vincent Jackson. It’s been great for me as a man and a player. I’ve had a long journey, but it’s been a blessing in the long run because of who I’ve seen and who I’ve been around.”
Year after year the process of organized team activities, summer workouts, fall camps and preseasons have gotten easier because he’s been able to learn from people around him.
“I think it’s gotten so much easier just because I’ve had all those guys I mentioned and more that I didn’t,” King said. “I’ve had so many mentors that I know what it takes to be a pro. I know how to watch film, I know how to train, I know how to eat. It’s all the little things and they matter.”
Now that he’s in New York, King has been able to learn from household names like 23-year-old Odell Beckham Jr. and salsa-dancing Victor Cruz.
King said the receiver room is “so talented” and everybody analyzes each other.
“You always want to see your brother do well,” King said. “I talk to everybody. I kind of ask them to say something or show me what they think I’m doing wrong.”
In the preseason, to fans, it didn’t look like there was much wrong for King.
The third contest was a 21-20 win for the Giants over the New York Jets on Aug. 27. In the game, King caught two passes for 38 yards. He scored touchdowns on both receptions. He also led the team in rushing with one carry for 20 yards.
In the fourth and final game, a 17-9 win over the Patriots on Sept. 1, King had four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown on five targets.
King said you “definitely have to play with a chip on your shoulder at this level week in and week out,” but he’s just going to go out each opportunity he gets like he did in the preseason, which was with a chip on his shoulder.
On Tuesday, ESPN had Cruz, Beckham Jr. and Sterling Shepard listed as the three starting receivers for the Giants’ Sunday opening contest at Dallas.
“I’m sure those guys will be who’s out there first or whatnot, but I’m just going with the flow,” King said. “I’m sure I’ll be used similar to how I was in the preseason. Who knows? Things change.”
King said everybody from his wife to his parents and other family were all “excited and relieved” when they heard he’d be sticking around the locker room and suiting up on Sundays.
“We waited so long for this that everybody was excited,” King said. “I just kept telling everybody this was a blessing and we were going to keep moving forward.”
As the first game of the 2016 season approaches this weekend, King’s 8-year-old daughter, Mckenzie, was excited for him too, but for a different reason.
“She was real happy I scored (in preseason) and all that,” King said. “She’s like every other kid in America, she’s a big Odell fan. She’s excited we’d be around him.”
The Giants will face the Cowboys at 4:25 p.m. Sunday in Arlington, Texas, a game that will be televised on Fox.