Sports today has become specialized—too specialized. Because of the popularity of select sports, kids are forced to quit sports they are proficient in so they can make that fifth select hockey, soccer or basketball practice of the week. That's why stories like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders don't happen much anymore. In high school, it's tough to be really good at two sports. In college, the two-sport athlete is almost non-existent.
Then we have the incredible story of Julie King, who just completed a sensational soccer career at Auburn. We are talking SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2011, a two-time All-SEC selection, a co-captain and an Academic All-American. The Nerinx Hall grad walked on water in high school, too: All-State and All-Metro. King was so athletic that she also was pretty good in basketball. She was an All-State player on two state quarterfinal teams. The basketball was in her blood. Her father, Kevin, is one of the great players in CBC history and is one of the few people who played at both Mizzou and Saint Louis University.
So after King completed her storied soccer career, she signed with the Boston Breakers of the women's professional soccer league. She played for the Breakers last summer, and then headed back to Auburn to complete her degree this fall. Auburn had just hired a new women's basketball coach, Terri Williams-Flournoy, who needed some new players.
Well, word travels fast at Auburn. Julie King always loved the game of basketball and always wanted to play it at Auburn, but her ankles needed a rest at the end of a grueling season. She had free time. She was rested. And the rest is history. So Julie King is now one of the few female athletes in the U.S. who can say she has played two sports at a big-time BCS school. King is getting playing time on a 10-2 Auburn Tiger squad. When she's done after the season, she will drive to Boston to resume her professional soccer career.
We talked at 9:30 at night, while she was going through a drive-through restaurant after a late basketball practice.
What was the first conversation like with Coach Williams-Flournoy?
She said, I need to see you in my office right away. It all happened in 48 hours. She told me she wanted to look into my eyes. She had not seen me pick up a basketball, but my soccer coach had told her that I was fast, quick and athletic. That was it. I was on the team.
What is your role on the team?
I prepare myself every game to perform. I need to support my teammates. It's been a challenge. I am not sure what they expect out of me. My role is ever changing. The other night against Tulane, I played 14 minutes...some nights not as much.
What is your soccer goal?
It's up in the air. Basketball is an opportunity I couldn't pass up. My ultimate goal is to play for the national team and the Olympics and World Cup. I will keep pursuing these goals as long as they are realistic.
Who are your sports heroes?
My father was my inspiration as a kid. He told me he got a full scholarship to college—that stayed with me. Then when I got to college, I was driven by my sister, Caitlin, who I played with at Auburn. She taught me there was always more to give.
What has been your best athletic moment?
My junior year, we were playing arch-rival Alabama. We thought if we won that game, we were going to the NCAA Tournement. I headed in a goal with 17 seconds to go in regulation to send the game into overtime. We won in overtime.
1. The single-most important thing I have read in the last month is the line, “Nobody on their deathbed has ever said ‘I wish I would have spent more time at work.’ ” Remember that.
2. On my 20th year at KSDK and on KFNS, same station and same time slot—I guess I am not making any progress. I can honestly say I am more excited to go to work now then I have ever been in my life. I just don't want to live there.
3. If you are looking for a good place to eat, try Elaia. You feel like you are in New York. The building used to be a gas station. They have a different menu every night. The chef is a genius.
4. I love being a father more than anything in the world. However, I look forward to the day when those kids can simply be my best friends. I doubt if I am too terribly high on their respective lists now.
5. I read all of these fitness magazines about abs of steel. I think I can put the time in the gym that is necessary, but I don't really want to be having chicken breasts and walnuts three times a day. Give me some RibCity ribs and some Spaghetti Bolognese from Bartolino's. Life is too short.