FLORENCE, S.C. — It’s been one adjustment after another for Tyquan King the last few years.
First, there was the move from West Haven High School in Connecticut to Dillon two years ago and getting used to living out in the countryside.
“Everything there was so close together there in the city, and here it’s a lot more spread out and farther away,” said King, who’s now a senior with the Wildcats. “So it’s a lot different in that case.”
Then there was the difference in football.
“Football here is played more year-round rather than just seasons,” King said. “So, it’s been a great change. Everyone accepted me like I’d been here for four years, so you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Finally there was a change in positions. King played fullback and linebacker at West Haven, but was used mostly as a running back for the Wildcats last season.
Until the playoffs that is, which turned out to be the starting point on the path to the Shrine Bowl.
King stepped back into his role at linebacker during the Wildcats’ run to another appearance in the Class 3A state championship and has been at the top of his game ever since. He leads the Wildcats in tackles this season on a defense that only gave up an average of 13.9 points through 10 games.
“He’s very instinctive,” Dillon coach Jackie Hayes said. “He’s got a good football mind and understands the game. He runs to the football and he tries to make every tackle.
“He just keeps getting better every week and he’s made a lot of big plays for us on defense this year.”
One of those was a 41-yard fumble return for a score against Marion that helped guide the Wildcats to an 8-1 regular season and another berth in the playoffs, which continues Friday at Wade Hampton (H) at 7:30 p.m.
“I’ve really just worked on using my hands more and becoming a vocal leader,” said King, who finished the regular season with a team-high 70 tackles. “That’s the main thing I’ve worked on is being a leader.
“I worry about stats later.”
Even so, King’s standout play following the switch was significant enough early in the season that it earned him a selection to the Shrine Bowl as one of the state’s top players.
“It was a tremendous honor; I was really appreciative of the opportunity,” King said. “It was big for me.”
It’s also a testament to how quickly he picked up his old defensive role. With several three-year starts at linebacker in the fold when he got there, running back was the place where Hayes felt he could have the biggest impact, he said.
But he still played linebacker at every practice.
“He kept working over there a little bit his junior year and just kept practicing,” Hayes said. “He kept getting better and better, and with his frame, he’s suited perfectly for that side of the ball.”
King was happy to play whatever role they needed his junior year, he said, but linebacker is his preferred position.
“I’m a defensive player,” he said. “I’ve got a nose for the ball rather than carrying it.”