EMERYVILLE, Calif. — The world Marquette King inhabited one evening last December radiated with red lighting. A screensaver on a mounted, flat-screen television glowed with additional hues, rotating through two hours of nebulas and other celestial images.
Engulfed in color, the Raiders punter focused on sound.
King sat on a leather computer chair inside a music studio, stashed on the second story of an industrial building. His body leaned at a 45-degree angle toward his laptop, as he fiddled with the bass of a beat he produced. Once satisfied, he graduated to the vocal booth, a walk-in closet with a window, where he belted lyrics he handwrote.
“I am so super-cali-fragil-istic-expi-ali-docious,” he began. “And you know this. And you notice.”
A sound engineer, Manny Jimenez, guided him through each phrase. So did his best friend: corrective audio technology.
“Thank God for Auto-Tune,” King said with a laugh. “That (stuff) saves lives.”
New Raiders coach Jon Gruden has yet to meet with King this offseason. They reside in different worlds, Gruden largely bunkered inside a silver and black building since January as he works to mold the franchise’s foundation. He will escape the compound this week to attend the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
More than 300 draft-eligible players will be there for evaluation.
None will be quite like King.
On the field, he is among the NFL’s elite, a right-footed star who led the league in Pro Bowl fan voting this past season. Off it, he is as colorful as any, a dynamic man whose interests extend beyond the game.
King, 29, routinely declines football-related interviews in the locker room, requesting questions about cartoons instead. He is a social-media persona with about 171,000 Twitter followers and more than double that on Instagram. There is little predicting what subject he might touch from tweet to tweet, branching from football, U.S. foreign policy to how he finds Miss Piggy — yes, the Muppett icon — “sexy.”
Ms Piggy is sexy… I think I have a crush…
— Marquette King (@MarquetteKing) October 30, 2017
Before punts, he sways side to side. After ones he likes, it’s a full-fledged dance.
In music, the piano player embraces originality. No songs are covers. Many NFL players who venture into music choose the rap genre, he says. Not him. Through his productions, he seeks to express himself and share “good vibes” with others, he said.
“He’s in his own world, but he likes to have people in it with him,” kicker Giorgio Tavecchio said. “Sometimes people can be standoffish when there is a gravity about them. He pulls you in because he wants you to be part his world. I’d love to spend a day in his mind because I think it’d be pretty magical.”
There is no putting King in a box until he steps into a vocal booth, exploring a relatively new hobby in which he composes electronic dance music. The song on which he worked last December, “Feelin Good,” was one of two he released early this month. The pair followed one called “I Got the Cup!” which gained considerable traction upon its release in December.
Another song, “Dance Dance Dance Dance,” was released Monday.
Long snapper Jon Condo said that he can envision King’s music being played in Las Vegas clubs, which of course would be a convenient pairing. The Raiders are scheduled to relocate there in 2020.
“He doesn’t want his life to be all about football because there is a lot more out there, which I respect,” Condo said. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing. I’ve noticed whenever he starts to have fun outside of football, he does better on the football field.”
At times last season, King’s music could be heard inside the Raiders’ specialists room.
Teammates noticed a progression in his technique, each song more advanced than the last. King and Tavecchio first became teammates during the 2014 offseason, but the 2017 campaign was the first regular season for Tavecchio on the club.
“He’s a high-energy guy, very passionate about everything he does, from punting to music to joking around with the specialists,” Tavecchio said. “I like to think he’s dynamic, soft around the edges, obtuse at times because he’s such an almost larger-than-life character because of the persona that he’s coming into in his career in the NFL.
“He’s fun to be around because you never know what you’re going to get. A great teammate to have. … But I remember I was interviewed about him once. He read what I said, and said, ‘Next time, just say that I’m weird.’ So to quote Marquette, he’s just weird.”
Life as an NFL specialist is based on repetition. It is technique. It is consistency. This year will mark the seventh season King occupies the punter role for the Silver and Black. But he chooses to paint his craft in vivid colors, embracing oddity and challenging the status quo.
Downloadable on iTunes, each song from King features a separate visual art cover. For one called “Kepler 186F,” he is depicted in a NASA-type space helmet and black tanktop, floating in the white star-speckled purples and blues of outer space.
“We can fly. We can fly. We can fly,” King sings on the track. “I’m from another planet. And they don’t understand it.”
NFL Scouting Combine
*What: A week-long symposium for 336 draft-eligible prospects
*When: Feb. 27 to March 5
*Raiders highlights: Jon Gruden news conference on Wednesday; tiebreaker toss on Friday versus the San Francisco 49ers to determine No. 9 overall draft pick