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OU's David King no stranger to pressure

OKLAHOMA FOOTBALL — David King knows pressure. Not because he's an OU defensive end tasked with filling in for Ronnell Lewis. He knows because he has lived it.
by Jenni Carlson Published: November 30, 2011

NORMAN — David King knows pressure.

Not because he brings it playing defensive end at Oklahoma. Not because he faces it filling in this weekend for the injured Ronnell Lewis.

He knows it because he has lived through it.

“Not a lot gets to me because I've been through so much,” the soft-spoken junior said. “My life experience has been much more than football.”

He has experienced difficulty. He has endured death. He has been through way more than replacing an injured teammate with a conference championship on the line.

“I've had an interesting life, I guess,” he said.

He paused a moment.

“I don't know if that's the right word,” he said. “I've had a different life than most. All the challenges that have been thrown my way, I've been able to come over them and just get myself in better places, better situations.”

The pressure hasn't cracked him.

It has made him stronger.

* * *

David King was raised the only child of a single mom.

They were hardly the only ones in the house, though. Growing up in Houston's Fifth Ward, one of the roughest neighborhoods in Texas, he lived under the same roof with his mom, his great grandmother, his great aunt, his aunt and his cousin.

“It was a bunch of women,” King said. “I grew up a mama's boy, needless to say.”

Gladys King was protective of her son, but she did not coddle him. While she didn't let him play football until his freshman year of high school, for example, she pushed him academically.

Right before David started middle school, he applied to and was admitted into a highly selective program called U-Prep. It helps low-income, underserved students in Houston, requiring them to attend not only summer school but also Saturday school.

But the payoff was huge.

The program helped him get into private schools. David went to middle school at Presbyterian School, then high school at Strake Jesuit College Prep.

“It's not easy to be the private-school guy, coming home in the uniform every day, doing that much work and not having a lot of time for the friends who are left behind,” said Helen Berger, who oversees the U-Prep program.

“He's always been committed to doing well.”

Gladys King made sure of it.

She rarely allowed her son to go outside and roam the neighborhood. She wanted him to stay in the house, do his homework or clean his room. He always thought she was being unfair, not letting him have any fun.

Now, David knows better.

“Some of my friends that I grew up with back home, I have no clue what they're doing,” he said.

Being from the Fifth Ward — a place with so many gangs and so much violence that it has spurred rap lyrics — the potential pitfalls are many.

“Mom kept me out of that lifestyle,” King said.

And if she needed any help with discipline, she called on Philip Gray. He was David's godfather, and he provided a male figure that was otherwise absent.

Gray carried a cane, and he wasn't afraid to whack David with it if he got out of line.

Strake Jesuit football coach Ron Counter saw those influences of structure and discipline in King early on. Even as a freshman, he was polite and courteous and well-mannered.

That's not always the norm for teenage boys.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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