Sometime early Saturday afternoon, Karrington King will wrap his arms around a Kansas State ball carrier and break a Charlotte 49ers’ record held by the program’s first and only player picked in the NFL draft.
King says he won’t be alone in making that tackle – even if he’s the only 49er defender on the play.
“He is with me out there – that’s the way I feel, at least,” says King, who with the other 49ers face 19th-ranked Kansas State on the road (noon, Fox Sports Southeast).
“He” is Larry Ogunjobi, the current career record-holder for tackles and now a member of the Cleveland Browns.
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King, a senior linebacker who played at Harding High and then for two years at Charlotte Catholic, says Ogunjobi was a mentor, friend and on-the-field accomplice the past two seasons.
“I wouldn’t be where I am without him,” King says. “It’s almost as if he’s still here today. That’s how I play on the field. His records push me to do better.”
Ogunjobi had 217 tackles in his four years with Charlotte. King reached the 215 mark with 10 tackles in last week’s 24-7 loss at Eastern Michigan.
There’s a good chance some of King’s tackles Saturday could take place behind the line of scrimmage. He is second in 49ers career sacks and fourth in tackles for loss.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder paid King and the other 49er linebackers plenty of praise earlier this week, saying the group “is fundamentally very sound.”
“Their linebackers really get after you,” he said. “They’re physical. They blitz a lot – more than we’ll probably see against any other team this year.”
King, who is majoring in Management Informations Systems, is in some ways an unlikely candidate to be setting a school record.
This game is a chance for redemption.
Karrington King, on the Charlotte 49ers playing a nationally ranked team after last season’s rout by Louisville
He was a standout defensive end at Charlotte Catholic, but he played in the shadows of other Cougar standouts like running back Elijah Hood, who later played at North Carolina and is now on the Oakland Raiders’ practice squad. King drew interest from several schools but decided to come to the 49ers as a walk-on.
The late Phil Ratliff, then an assistant coach with the 49ers, sold King on the school.
“Once you talked to coach Ratliff, there wasn’t any question about where you were going,” King says. “He made the answer easy.”
At 6-0 and 219 pounds, King moved from defensive end to linebacker in college.
He redshirted in the 2013 season but broke into the lineup in 2014, playing in all 11 games and eventually starting. He was third on the team in tackles that season. King added 53 tackles in 2015, when the 49ers moved from FCS to FBS, and he added 73 tackles last season.
King says staying in Charlotte to play college football was the right decision.
“My friends and family, all the people I know, are able to come and see me play,” he says. “I get to stay in my home town and play football for a great program like this. I truly feel blessed.”
Playing against a nationally-ranked team like the Big 12’s Kansas State is a big deal to King. He said last season’s 70-14 loss to Louisville, the only other nationally-ranked foe the 49ers have faced as an FBS team, still stings.
“This game is a chance for redemption,” he says.
And, he adds, it would be nice to beat the alma mater of his head coach, Brad Lambert, and defensive coordinator, Matt Wallerstedt.
“I hear a lot about Kansas (State) football around here,” King says with a laugh. “I’d love for us to do well against them. That might quiet some of the Kansas (State) talk.”
Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle
Charlotte (0-1) at Kansas State (0-1)
Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Manhattan, Kan., noon
The game will be carried on Fox Sports Southeast, which is Spectrum cable channel 60 … Two Charlotte-area players are on the Kansas State roster. Starting wide receiver and kick returner Dominique Heath is from Hopewell High, and kickoff specialist Mitch Lochbihler is from Charlotte Catholic, where he played with Karrington King.
Charlotte quarterback Hassan Klugh is recognized as an outstanding two-dimension quarterback, but the Wildcats’ Jesse Ertz is equally talented. He was among four FBS quarterbacks last year to rush for more than 1,000 yards and pass for more than 1,500 … This is the first of two straight 49ers games against nationally ranked foes. Charlotte is home next Saturday against N.C. A&T, ranked 21st in the FCS poll.