Oh, and quarterbacks coach Chris Weinke (who, truth be told, tried to recruit King to Tennessee) was beginning his second season with Tech having already built strong rapports with the QBs on the roster.
King didn’t let any of that stand in his way.
“It wasn’t really anything new to me. I was kind of like that at the Elite 11 (Finals quarterback competition). Not a lot of people knew about me. If they did, it was just because they were from Texas, and they’ve watched it from there,” King said. “You just got to go out every day and be yourself. You can’t try to be anybody different or force things. You’ve just got to be yourself, and people will rally behind that, and you’ll be able to be able to influence people by being yourself and just being real, authentic. That was the key really, just every day come out competing and being authentic to all my teammates.”
King officially won Tech’s quarterback battle Aug. 22. It was an arduous competition between him and Pyron that, according to Key, lasted seven-plus months. It started the day the small-town Texas kid arrived and virtually ended with the team’s second scrimmage of preseason practice Aug. 19 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
King, a third-year sophomore, seemingly had been the No. 2 quarterback (or 1B at best) for the entire month, battling rep for rep with Pyron.
“Both quarterbacks had outstanding camps. This is an evaluation that’s been ongoing since Jan. 6,” Key said. “To have three quarterbacks that have started college football games on your team is a super-positive to have. There’s going to be points in time this year where those quarterbacks will all play. But for now, Haynes King is the starter.”
Growing up in east Texas, King was immersed in football from an early age. His father, who now has 200 career wins under his belt, has been the coach at Longview High since 2004, and it was at Longview that the younger King became a bona fide star.
King led Longview to a state title in 2018, the school’s first state championship since 1937. King went 37-2 as a starter, threw for more than 7,700 yards, completed 86 touchdown passes and ran for 1,311 yards and 20 scores.
In July 2019, King committed to Texas A&M as the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. He rarely saw the field in 2020, but was named the team’s starting quarterback in the 2021 preseason and then again in the 2022 preseason.
King sustained a leg injury in 2021 that ended his season, and he was demoted to the bench early in 2022. He officially entered the transfer portal in December looking for a fresh start and fresh competition.
“It hurts when the whole thing turns on you,” King said. “It definitely hurt. But you learn from it a lot. One person told me, ‘Stuff goes wrong, you can’t let it bother you because at the end of the day the sun’s still gonna rise, birds gonna be chirping, family’s still gonna love you, they’re gonna support you.’ So, you just got to keep on moving.
“You know who’s in your tight-knit circle. As long as they still care for you, love you, you’re going to be fine. Just got to keep moving forward.”
After graduating from A&M, King has three seasons of eligibility remaining. He said he’s enrolled this semester in history, technology and society classes and is focused on building his resume with internships.
On the field, King’s unofficial Tech debut came in April when he threw for 276 yards on 13 completions and made three touchdown throws during the Jackets’ spring game. The official curtain-raiser on King’s career in Atlanta comes Friday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium when the Jackets face Louisville in the Aflac Kickoff game.
It will be his first opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of Jackets fans and, more important, his first opportunity to win a game for the white and gold.
“I’m pumped up. New atmosphere, new team, new coaches, new fans,” King said. “They got transfers, we got transfers. They got new coaches, we got new coaches. It’s everything. You never know what to expect. Everybody is just all-in right now and ready to go.”