QUIET CLIMB: Funny man Tavarres King is catching up to some of the best wideouts in Georgia history

Tavarres King isn’t a quiet person.

But he has stealthily climbed into some rarefied air in Georgia’s receiving record book.

King already has the fourth-highest career touchdown total in school history and he has four games left to play. He sits in sixth place in all-time yards and he has done it without the crush of attention that often comes with big numbers and highlight-reel catches.

“It’s kind of weird,” King said. “I guess it’s been kind of quiet to get where I am, among the receivers. I never even thought about it until somebody told me. The I was like, ‘Wow, that’s kind cool. Those are some great names — Terrence Edwards and Brice Hunter and A.J. (Green) — and then it’s just me.”

King has 19 career touchdown receptions, which is tied with Hunter for fourth place all-time in Georgia history and behind Fred Gibson (20), Green (23) and Edwards (30).

What makes King’s climb up the charts most impressive is he’s never been his team’s primary receiver. King began his career under the tutelage of Mohammed Massaquoi. He has also played in the shadow of A.J. Green and alongside Malcolm Mitchell.

“It’s awesome, man,” King said. “I don’t think I’d want to play in an offense where the ball wasn’t evenly distributed and it was just going to one guy. It’s just so cool to have several people who the ball can go to and have several guys who can make a play. It’s awesome that we can feed off of each other. I think it’s neat to feed off of Malcolm when he’s making big plays. I used to feed off of A.J. when he was making big plays. It’s just fun.”

King, a fifth-year senior, has already graduated with a degree in social studies education. Among the Southeastern Conference’s active players, King is No. 2 with 2,276 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns and is No. 3 in career receptions with 124.

“He tries to master all the little things,” Georgia defensive back Damian Swann said. “He was a little overshadowed by a couple of big guys coming through, like A.J. and Mo (Mohammed Massaquoi). But Tavarres is one of our premier receivers, and he knows the game and he gives you everything he’s got not just in games but in practice too.”

King, who went to Habersham Central in Mount Airy, isn’t just one of Georgia’s top producers but also one of the leading characters on the team.

King, a tennis enthusiast, decided to wear a Roger Federer-style headband this year after seeing it on a mannequin in a pro shop.

“He’s a people person, he just gets along with everyone,” Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell said. “He gets along with kids great. He gets along with his teammates great. He’s a great player but he’s even a better person. He just knows how to interact with people. You never see him get into arguments or get upset with anybody for petty reasons. The most you’ll ever see him upset is if something happens in a game. Other than that, he’s just always smiling.”

 

King a steadying force

Georgia’s receiver corps has looked like a revolving door for most of the year with one glaring exception.

King is the lone regular from the primary trio that started the season. Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett went down with season-ending injuries. Malcolm Mitchell began the year playing defense and has just recently returned to the offense. But King has been the one constant through all the transition.

“It’s been very important to stay healthy and stay productive,” King said. “It’s very unfortunate what happened to Mike and Marlon. They didn’t do anything different than I did. I needed to stay healthy and keep working hard and set an example for the young guys. They’ve had to grow up here in a hurry. I love working with Malcolm. He wants to be the best and a guy I can really take under my wing just how Mohammed (Massaquoi) did me so he can be great when he leaves.”

King has passed on the lessons he learned from Massaquoi to younger players, such as Mitchell and Chris Conley. He’s also taken on the leadership role among the receivers to make the program better.

“He brings some attitude to the position,” Conley said. “He’s a big personality. He’s always in the now. He can’t hold it in and he’s got these facial expressions and gestures and motions and stuff. He keeps us on our toes. He really brings a lot of laughter and joy but also focus.”

 

Big-play skill set

Although King might not be the fastest of Georgia’s receivers, he has a knack for making deep catches. He has 30 receptions and has the team lead with 624 yards and seven touchdowns. His 18.4 yards per catch is the highest active mark in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision.

“He’s been productive, and he’s making the most of his opportunities when they come his way,” Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s always made big plays for us down the field. The position where he plays, he’s a guy that we take shots with deep and he’s taken advantage of that. He’s got quickness. He’s got the quick twitch that you sometimes see in a smaller receiver. He’s got a natural stick move where he can stick guys and turn them around. He’s got the ability to get the ball deep when it’s a little bit under-thrown.”

King has been on the end of some of Georgia’s most memorable catches in his career. He tightroped the sideline to make a leaping touchdown reception last week against Auburn. Last year against Florida he caught a 14-yard touchdown over the top of a defender on fourth down that helped the Bulldogs come from behind for a 24-20 win.

“It seems like Tavarres always gets overlooked, but he just makes big play after big play,” Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said. “That catch he made the other night (Auburn) to get his foot down in the end zone, that was definitely a top 10. I think that catch against Florida might have been bigger because it tied the game and he jumped over the guy. Both of them were pretty sweet catches. But a lot of the plays I like about Tavarres is just his route running. Everybody just sees the catches. But nobody ever sees the moves he uses to get open, especially in the red zone. He just has all these funny dances — he doesn’t just run and burst, he does these little dances and then bursts. It’s fun to watch him kind of mess with the defender. That’s really cool.”

 

King of comedy

King’s sense of humor helps keep the atmosphere around Georgia’s locker room loose.

He’s quick with a clever comeback. He thrives on duels of wits with his teammates and isn’t shy about creating fun where he can find it.

“He’s just goofy,” said Georgia running back Brandon Harton, who has been one of King’s roommates for two years. “He’s just goofy. There’s never a dull moment in the house. We might just be chillin’ and watching TV. Then something comes up and there goes the silence in the house. If something funny happens, he just goes with it. It’s crazy. He always has something to say.”

King isn’t shy about teasing his teammates. But the verbal jabs King throws are almost always thrown with a smile on his face. Harton is one of his past victims and is now one of King’s closest friends.

“When I first walked on, the first thing he said to me was, ‘Boy, you’re short,’” said Harton, who is listed at 5-foot-6. “I just kind of started laughing because I’m used to hearing that. I’ve been short my whole life. But the way he said, it was fun. Then the next thing you know, I’m moving into the house with him and we’ve just become closer friends ever since. He’s like a brother to me.”

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