(STATS) - An FCS playoff game, a Celebration Bowl appearance and even a winning record eluded linebacker Deon King during a standout four-year career at Norfolk State.
But he's looking forward, not lamenting the past.
"Everybody doesn't have a fairy tale," he said. "I've got to make my own fairy tale."
This week, King is trying to take a big step toward realizing it. As the Division-I leader in tackles this past season - for both the FBS and FCS - he has a calling card that will capture attention.
He's planning to attract longer looks at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, where this week's practices and preparation will wrap up with the fifth annual all-star game at the StubHub Center in Carson, California. ESPNU will broadcast practices Wednesday and Thursday, and Saturday's game will be shown on ESPN2 beginning at 6 p.m. ET.
King, a STATS FCS first-team All-American, will play for coach Mike Holmgren's American Team, which has a dozen other seniors from the FCS, including Florida A&M linebacker Akil Blount, who like King comes out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
His other FCS teammates are Harvard tight end Ben Braunecker, Eastern Washington offensive tackle Clay DeBord, Northern Iowa cornerback Makinton Dorleant, Sam Houston State punter Lachlan Edwards, Richmond running back Jacobi Green, Fordham offensive lineman Garrick Mayweather Jr., Campbell defensive tackle Greg Milhouse, Eastern Washington offensive lineman Aaron Neary, Northwestern State quarterback Stephen Rivers, Incarnate Word linebacker Myke Tavarres and Liberty quarterback Josh Woodrum.
The FCS players on coach Mike Martz' National Team: Sacramento State offensive lineman Lars Hanson, South Carolina State tight end Temarrick Hemingway, Idaho State defensive tackle Tyler Kuder, Western Carolina defensive tackle Helva Matungulu, Southern Utah quarterback Ammon Olsen, William & Mary linebacker Luke Rhodes, Montana State tight end Beau Sandland, Sacramento State linebacker Darnell Sankey and Hampton offensive lineman Torian White, who also comes out of the MEAC.
While winning games meant so much to King, and frustrated him so often at Norfolk State, it's not as important to the players this week while they showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts.
King's 163 tackles were the most at the FCS level, but scouts also have a lot of film of him facing tougher competition as Norfolk State opened his senior season against three FBS opponents.
The 6-foot-1, 225-pounder collected 12 tackles against Rutgers and followed with 21 in back-to-back weeks against Old Dominion and Marshall. He reached double figures in every game, adding 11 tackles for loss, three sacks and one interception on the season.
"My coaches put me in the right positions. I played outside (linebacker) all three years and the coaching staff (Latrell Scott and his first-year staff) came in and I played middle," King said.
"I came in there and tried to do the best I could to help us win. So if that means I'm making 20 tackles a game to help us win, or get close to winning, I tried to do it."
With a versatile, instinctive style, King believes his ability to anticipate the action on the field is one of his strongest attributes. He is undersized by NFL standards, but has speed that clocks in the mid- to high-4.6-second range for the 40-yard dash.
Leading up to this week, King has trained alongside other NFL hopefuls at Bommarito Performance Systems in Davie, Florida. He hasn't been invited to the NFL Combine next month, which brings further importance to the NFLPA game. He will participate in the pro day at Old Dominion in March.
King has drawn off the success of NFL veteran Don Carey, the Detroit Lions strong safety out of Norfolk State, and received advice from two former teammates: linebacker Lynden Trail and strong safety Keenan Lambert, who have played at the next level.
"It's really like a job. I love everything that I'm doing - each and every day I'm learning something new," King said.
While recognizing the FCS is viewed as a small-school level, King said, "I have the biggest chip on my shoulder because those (FBS) guys, they played the best. Not to say I didn't play against the best, but I know I can play the same type of competition they can play and still dominate.
"It keeps building and building and it keeps me hungrier and hungrier. Just like a lion in the cage just getting released."