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Inspired by personal adversity, Dre’Mail King focusing on structure, discipline at Carver

Carver's Dre'Mail King: It's about doing things the right way

Carver football coach Dre'Mail King has focused on structure and discipline for his Tigers team so far this season. With that in place, now he feels like he can focus on football.
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Carver football coach Dre'Mail King has focused on structure and discipline for his Tigers team so far this season. With that in place, now he feels like he can focus on football.

It was less than an hour after Carver’s season-opening loss at Opelika last Friday, a 34-7 drubbing that looked early on like it could be even worse, and Tigers coach Dre’Mail King is kneeling outside the team bus.

Running through his mind are questions and scenarios, things he could have done better, decisions he could have approached differently, anything that could have at least marginally changed a result that, on paper, looked like a major letdown for his team to open the 2016 season.

Admittedly feeling down and a little sorry for himself, King heard voices shouting from the bus.

“Coach, it’s going to be all right,” they said. “We’re going to be all right.”

It was a perfect example of the attitude he’s spent the past three months trying to instill in his team. He wants his players to accept adversity and face it head-on.

And so, from Day 1, his primary objective was to change the culture of the program. He wanted more structure and more discipline. Practices have become organized down to the minute. They are fast-paced, and they are demanding.

“To be honest, it’s what they wanted,” King said. “We attacked it differently. We had to fix that first and then focus on the football. … That’s what everybody wants. It’s not just kids, it’s all humans. We want structure. It gives you a goal. It sets a standard. We all know if you take the steps to achieve a goal, you’ll get there. Discipline is one of those things.”

Discipline, he said, is not punishment. It’s love, and it’s what gives a football player the ability to handle adversity on and off the field.

King knows all about adversity. In a story in the Tuscaloosa News in 2011, King’s adversity was chronicled in great detail. The story told how he, as a senior at Central-Tuscaloosa in 2003, was a star athlete with an offer to play football at Alabama. How he had designs of winning national titles and playing one day in the NFL. How all of those goals were abruptly thrown off course when he tried to intervene in an altercation between his brother and his mom, and ended up with a bullet in his abdomen.

In the blink of an eye, everything he had hoped for was suddenly gone.

And yet, he persevered through it, survived the wound and resumed his work toward a career in football. He walked on at Mississippi State, but never received a scholarship offer. He transferred to and had an outstanding career at Stillman College. When the NFL draft came and went without his name being called, he spent time in the United Football League and Arena Football League.

And when it was time to call it quits and be a husband and a father, that’s what he did.

“My dream got snatched two or three times, and I kept pushing,” he said. “And when I felt like it was long enough, when I was advised, I called it quits and got into something that I really love to do.”

He got into coaching, something he felt inspired to do because of his own adversity. He wanted to impact kids’ lives, many of whom go through struggles similar to the ones he faced. At Carver, he feels like he can have, and is having, that impact.

“You’re a counselor, you’re an uncle, a brother, a cousin, a father,” he said. “You’re all of them. You have to play that role. I embrace it. That’s why I got into coaching. I love all kids, but especially those kids who come from where I come from. I like building those kids. I like showing them that there are other opportunities than what the media and everybody shows, as far as the bad things, especially with what’s going on in the world today.

“We need strong black men out there teaching these young kids how to do the right things. Just to give them leadership. People always say there’s not enough good men in the world today. They’re here. They’re here, you’ve just got to find them.”

People always say there’s not enough good men in the world today. They’re here. They’re here, you’ve just got to find them.

Dre’Mail King, Carver coach

He praised his entire staff in that respect. He said that is one of the first things he wanted to do with his staff. Football was important, but he wanted a variety of people who his players could look up to and talk to.

King hasn’t shared the specifics of his story to his team. Some of them know, he said, and have come to talk with him about it, but he hasn’t shared it openly because he never wanted it to be about him.

“But they’re going to find out,” he said. “And when they do, I make sure that if there’s any questions they want to ask, they can ask. That’s what we’re here for. We’re here to answer the questions, just to guide them.”

That’s been the goal from the beginning, to guide this team back to where it was in the past: Contending for state championships and handling challenges and adversity with ease.

King said he can already see the transformation taking place. He referred back to the moments after the team’s loss at Opelika last week, a moment where a team that isn’t used to losing by 27 — or to falling behind by 20 points in the first quarter of a game — could have given up. They didn’t, and that showed King all he needed to see.

“That showed me that all those things we instilled in them over the summer, all that structure and discipline, that was it right there,” he said.

In that game, like in King’s career, there were plenty of times his team could have quit, but didn’t.

“They kept pushing,” he said.

David Mitchell: 706-571-8571, @leprepsports

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