Let’s get this Sparty started: King longing for return to East Lansing

Kyle King is pictured during his official visit to Michigan State. Photo courtesy Michigan State Athletics

NEW PALESTINE — Kyle King will soon get a restart to his head start.

Michigan State University announced Thursday that it will be letting student-athletes back on campus June 15 to, eventually, resume voluntary summer workouts.

Shortly after helping lead New Palestine to back-to-back Class 5A state football titles in November, the first-team all-state defensive end graduated high school at semester break to get a jump on learning, both academically and athletically, at the Big Ten university in East Lansing, Mich.

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“I’m excited to go back,” King said.

It’s been a constant cycle of change for the former Dragon, listed at 6-foot-3, 249-pounds on the MSU athletics website. He signed with the Spartans in December and arrived at the school’s campus in early January.

He went from small town Indiana to one of the nation’s largest universities. Two years ago MSU was listed in the top 10 (No. 9) of the largest universities in the country with 50,000 students.

“It was kind of scary,” he said. “New Palestine is a small town and everybody knows everybody. It was stressful at first, but I came in with six other guys at the semester, so we’re going through the same thing together.”

Still, it’s nothing like a typical day for a student at NPHS.

“It’s so different,” King said. “I’m so used to just walking down the hallway to my next class. Now, I walk across campus. I walk into a lecture room and there are 600 people.

“Where do I sit? It was overwhelming at first, but you ease into it.”

It’s no longer overwhelming. It’s just another one of many changes he has had to get used to.

He had been to his new home away from home less than a month when Spartans long-time head coach Mark Dantonio announced he was retiring.

A week later the school hired former Colorado head coach Mel Tucker to take over the reins.

“You definitely feel a new kind of excitement with coach Tucker,” King said. “He is very engaged with the community. There are a lot of new things (in the program) that I am excited to be a part of.”

King said the transition to Tucker was going well. He expects that to continue upon return, but any hopes of a big head start ended before it got started.

Shortly before the team’s first spring practice, classes and the campus were shut down due to COVID-19.

“We were three days away from our first spring practice when (COVID-19 came),” King said. “So, I haven’t played any football there. It’s been too long without football.”

King said they had only lifted, conditioned and had walk-through workouts without pads before the shutdown.

He’s eager to get back on the football field, but that still won’t be right away when he and other student-athletes return to MSU.

According to a report in Friday’s Detroit News, Michigan State representatives said it will test athletes then ask them to self-isolate at their on- or off-campus housing. Those testing positive will be quarantined for 10 days. Those that test negative will test again a week later and if negative will be able to resume workouts in small groups.

“On the outside it looks crazy, but it hasn’t been that stressful,” King said.

As of now, King is slated to be a strong-side defensive end for the Spartans, but that could change, too.

One instruction he got when sent home was to keep eating. With a gain of weight and muscle he could move to defensive tackle.

He’s not concerned about position, but he is eager to get on the practice field.

Like a lot of incoming freshmen at Division-I power conference schools, playing time is not a certainty.

King has a great resume’ with a long list of individual and team honors from his days at New Palestine, but he’s one of many former high school stars mixed in with college vets now.

“No one has told me (if I am going to play or redshirt). I’m going to go in and compete and see what happens,” King said, adding he’s going to give his best and leave it up to coaches to make that decision.

Whenever his first season begins, he’ll have a couple of reunions to look forward to.

On Sept. 19, Michigan State is scheduled to host Toledo. It would give him a chance to reunite with high school teammate Maxen Hook, who like King left New Palestine early to begin school and football at the Ohio school.

On Oct. 24, King will return to his home state when the Spartans travel to Indiana University, where another former Dragon, Charlie Spegal, is playing for the Hoosiers.

All that is down the road in what has already been an ever-changing ride in his early college career.

“I take it day by day,” King said. “A lot of stuff happened my first semester of college.”