This story moved on our “wire,” something I haven’t looked at in months. Our wire picks up AP and McClatchy stories, which, apparently, includes the Burlington Hawk Eye newspaper.
Here’s the story from the wire:
The Hawk Eye, Burlington, Iowa
BURLINGTON — Thursday night’s Des Moines County I-Club banquet at the Pzazz Events Center was just part of the transition process for King, a Burlington native.
It was to honor his four seasons as a starter on Iowa’s defensive line, and to wish him well as he begins his journey to make the roster of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans.
The biggest crowd in the local I-Club’s history was back in 1979. Back then, the football and basketball coaches traveled together to every I-Club event. The coaches that year were Lute Olson and a new football coach named Hayden Fry. Six hundred people showed up that night.
Thirty years later, more than 400 people showed up to honor King, the biggest crowd since that night.
“That’s a tribute to you, Mitch,” Des Moines County I-Club president Dick Benne said.
The Iowa coaches who showed up to speak all had something to say to King.
“Knock the hell out of ’em when you go to the pros,” wrestling assistant coach Mike Zadick said.
“What a great (honor) it’s been watching him play,” women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder said.
Each comment led to more applause.
King was asked to say a few words to the crowd after a highlight video which showed plenty of King hits that generated plenty of applause.
Then it was King’s turn to speak.
“I found out I was coming up here an hour ago,” King said. “Don’t expect too much.”
It took him a couple of seconds to settle in, but King was able to entertain.
He took a good-natured jab at Iowa football play-by-play man Gary Dolphin, who said King ranked in the “top 40” in all-time tackles, and then said King was 41st.
“Gary, your math …” King said. “Forty-first”
Then he turned the attention to those who showed up.
“First of all, thank you to everyone from Burlington,” King said. “I play with my heart, because I represent Burlington and I represent Iowa.”
Then he turned to Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz, the night’s final speaker.
“Coach Ferentz, thank you again,” King said. “I wouldn’t be here today, and you wouldn’t be honoring me today, without Coach Ferentz and his staff.”
Then another King quip.
“My sister told me I would have to get up here,” he said. “She wrote a little speech for me. I didn’t read it, but I did take a couple of things from it.”
As the laughter died down, King gave a wink to his family sitting at the tables in the front row. Then the emotion of the night hit.
“Thanks, to my family,” he said. “Thanks. I love you.”
King tried to leave the podium, but Benne, Dolphin and Ferentz wouldn’t let him. They had one more surprise.
A birthday cake, because today is King’s 23rd birthday.
The colors, of course, were black and gold.
King blew out the candles, then it was Ferentz’s turn to talk.
“For Mitch to do what he did is absolutely phenomenal,” Ferentz said as he talked about King’s career.
“Maybe the thing I appreciate most about him is the work behind the scenes. Mitch was out there setting a great example.”
Ferentz expressed his disappointment about King not being chosen in the NFL draft. He signed with the Titans as a free agent.
“I think we were all surprised Mitch didn’t get drafted,” Ferentz said. “But I wouldn’t bet against Mitch this year, or in the years to come.”
Ferentz spoke some more, talking about the future of the Hawkeyes. He told how it would be hard to replace the production of King.
No one could argue the point.
As the night ended, King was surrounded by well-wishers as he signed autographs, putting his signature on photos from his past, as the future waited.