As a kid, Tavarres King never thought football was his calling.
Growing up in Habersham County, King always believed that he’d make a name for himself on the hardwood rather than the gridiron.
"I thought basketball was it," King said. "I didn’t start taking football seriously until the eighth grade."
Count every Raider fan happy that he did, for once King started concentrating on football the rangy speedster became a star. In four seasons, he helped Habersham Central to two Region 8-AAAA titles and two Class AAAA quarterfinal playoff appearances. He also set two state records in receiving and inked a scholarship with the University of Georgia, where he currently plays.
Thanks to his prep exploits, King has been named to the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame’s Elite 10, encompassing the top 10 high school athletes to come from the area over the past 10 years.
"It’s a blessing to have this God-given ability," King said. "My coaches did a great job working with me and developing my talent. And we took a lot of pride in what we accomplished as a team at Habersham. The camaraderie of being around the guys there was great, going to work every day with them... It was a lot of fun."
The Raiders dominated Region 8-AAAA during King’s junior and senior seasons, going 12-0 in the league over that time. And while Habersham had a number of weapons at its disposal, including standout quarterback Bo Hatchett, King was always good for the big play, being named first team All-State in 2006 and ’07. He was also voted Offensive Player of the Year for Class AAAA in each of those seasons.
King — whose father, Anthony King, was also a standout football player for the Raiders and is a member of the Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame — also set two state records during his senior season, hauling in 100 catches for 1,641 yards. For his career, King finished with 207 receptions for 3,276 yards and 37 touchdowns.
"It’s neat that my dad played there," King said. "But our senior class really wanted to leave a mark of our own there, and I think we did. We met as sophomores and talked about stepping up and being leaders, and we did what it took to be successful."
Now, King hopes to do the same in Athens.
After a frustrating freshman campaign at Georgia — during which King received a medical redshirt after a sprained ankle in week four knocked him out of the season — King believes he has a chance to make an impact in 2009.
"I’ve just gotta’ keep on pushing. If I do that I feel like success will go my way," said King, who feels last season’s injury was not a setback. "Me getting hurt was probably a blessing in disguise. It allowed me to sit down and get into the playbook and learn behind Mohammed [Massaquoi], who was a great receiver here."
This season, King is battling for a starting receiver slot with the Bulldogs, and the redshirt freshman has a good chance of realizing that goal, with Georgia lacking experienced depth at the position due to offseason injuries. King will have to hold off some talented freshmen, but he received multiple snaps with the first team offense in spring practice and has added weight to his frame to prepare for the pounding of a Southeastern Conference campaign.
"I’m up to 182 pounds," said the 6-foot-1 King, who came to Georgia weighing 162 pounds — just a few years removed from thinking basketball was his future.
"I’m just glad football has got me where I am today," King said.
The Northeast Georgia Sports Hall of Fame is located in the Northeast Georgia History Center on the campus of Brenau University.
The History Center will recognize athletic excellence at a luncheon at 11:30 a.m., Aug. 29, at the Georgia Mountain Center in downtown Gainesville. Guest speaker Damon Evans, athletic director for the University of Georgia, will help honor 15 Northeast Georgia Athletes and one highly successful team. There will be five retired athletes inducted into the Northeast Georgia Sports
Hall of Fame and an additional "Elite 10" athletes, some of Northeast Georgia’s best athletes of the last 10 years.
Table sponsorships are available for $350, and table sponsors may choose to have their table host one of the athletes to be recognized on a first-come, first-served basis. A limited number of individual tickets are available for $25. Call the History Center at 770-297-5900 to make your reservations.