Desmond King is having the ride of his life as an All-Pro with the Chargers

CARSON, CA, SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 2018 - Chargers defensive back Desmond King Jr. returns a punt agai
Chargers defensive back Desmond King Jr. returns a punt against the Arizona Cardinals in November. King earned an All-Pro designation at two positions last season.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The interview, like most of them do, began with a question.

Only this one was directed at the reporter.

“What size helmet do you wear?” asked the man representing Desmond King.

And so began the latest on the Chargers defensive back whose dizzying climb last season saw him emerge from being a fifth-round draft pick two years ago to being the very definition of elite.


In the 2017 draft, 150 players were selected before King. None earned All-Pro recognition at two positions. King did, a first-teamer on defense and second-teamer returning punts.

He also received a vote as a kickoff returner, confirmation that King genuinely stood out league-wide every way in which the Chargers employed him.

“He’s a great player already,” fellow cornerback Casey Hayward said. “If he can just get better at the little things coach [Anthony Lynn] told him to get better at, he’ll have a better year and he’ll be All-Pro again.”

The ascent over the last several months, indeed, has been turbo-charged. But so much so that now just talking to King required a helmet?


Well, no, the headgear wasn’t necessitated by King’s raise but rather his ride — a 2019 Polaris Slingshot SLR, a vehicle that is classified legally as an “autocycle” but only because “rolling spaceship” doesn’t sound official enough.

“I think it’s a really cool ride because you can get the experience of almost driving like a motorcycle but still be inside a car,” said King, who wears a dark-tint helmet while on board. “It’s definitely a great experience. I’m just having fun with it and taking it for joyrides. … I get a lot of eyes toward me in this thing.”

King drew little attention at his Detroit high school and originally committed to Ball State — to play running back. He eventually received a scholarship offer from and attended Iowa.

He made first-team All-Big Ten his last two seasons, and second-team Associated Press All-American in 2016. Many projected he would be drafted in rounds 2 or 3, but with concerns about his size and speed he wasn’t selected until Day 3.

Still, King never stopped thinking big … and bigger.

King and a few of his teammates spent Super Bowl week in Atlanta, sitting down for interviews and interacting with fans while the Rams and New England Patriots prepped for the game.

It was the first time he had seen a Super Bowl site in full bloom, the player inside him causing his mind to wonder to a nearby, promising place.

“I thought a lot about if the Chargers made the Super Bowl what our experience would be like,” King said. “It looked and sounded pretty good to me. Hopefully, this year we can make that run.”


After the game, he flew to Miami for a family vacation with his mother, Yvette Powell, and two brothers, Andre Golson and Devon King.

Powell, who still lives in Detroit, was able to attend two of the Chargers’ road games last season, at Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Against the Browns, her son had two interceptions. Against the Steelers, he returned a punt 73 yards for a touchdown. The Chargers won both.

“We relived those games a little bit,” King said, smiling. “I got to hear about her experience watching from the stands. It was great having quality time to catch up with her. It was nice to get some time with my family outside of Detroit.”

Making All-Pro doesn’t bring a trophy or plaque or certificate. The honor nets recognition only. But that doesn’t mean it lacks value.

King was able to cash in on his stellar season in the form of a phone conversation with four-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis.

His agent arranged the call, presenting King with the chance to ask Revis about his offseason preparation and how best to follow a breakout year. Revis’ centered on staying humble and hungry.

“That’s a guy I looked up to growing up,” King said. “Just having that private conversation with him was so special.”

King, 24, lives in Irvine with younger brother Devon and “Ace,” a Maltese and miniature poodle mix who belongs to King’s girlfriend.


The two brothers first moved in together during King’s senior year at Iowa. Devon is autistic and a skilled artist, his sketch pads filled with images from his brother’s football career.

In the last two seasons, King played during the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign wearing designs drawn by Devon, whom the All-Pro football player has called his inspiration.

“It’s nice having my little brother here,” King said. “Just having him around and being able to spend time together is awesome.”

They don’t get bothered much by the neighbors, King admitting that most of them seem to have no idea he plays football for a living.

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He said he tries to avoid wearing anything that bears the word “Chargers” and keeps offseason hours similar to someone working a 9-to-5 job.

But when it comes time to head to the carport and fire up the “autocycle,” King becomes abundantly more obvious.

“The guy who delivered it dropped it off and said, ‘Have fun,’” King said. “I was kind of amazed with it for a while. It was like, ‘Wow, I’m really about to drive one of these things.’”

And then off he went, the joyride Desmond King began back in September continuing.


The Chargers on Friday signed free agent safety Adarius Pickett, who played at UCLA. After going undrafted, Pickett signed with Chicago. The Bears waived him on May 5. He was considered one of the best tacklers in the Pac-12 last season, a quality that could help him make an impact on special teams.

Twitter: @JeffMillerLAT

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