SAARBRÜCKEN, Germany- Kyle King is halfway around the world, in a new country, and a new environment, surrounded by 15th century buildings and architecture. The time difference between Saarbrücken and King’s hometown of Milano, Texas, is seven hours. And yet he feels right at home.
At least, on the football field.
“It’s a different culture, but the guys on the team have been very accepting,” King said in an interview with True To The Cru last week. “They’ve done a good job of making me and [Mikkah] Hackett feel like we’ve been here our whole lives. They’ve really shown us the ropes. I couldn’t ask for better teammates.”
He is three weeks into his professional career, as a quarterback with the Saarland Hurricanes of the German Football League. Throughout the last two seasons at UMHB, King became a household name amongst the Cru community for his innate ability to rise to the occasion.
He went from being a JV quarterback in 2019, to the star of the offense in 2021 during UMHB’s Stagg Bowl run. When he left Belton this past winter, he did so as a Gagliardi Trophy finalist (the D-III equivalent to the Heisman Trophy), an All-American by the AFCA, D3football.com, the AP, as well as a school record holder in four different categories.
He is not the only All-American on the roster. As mentioned, UMHB alum Mikkah Hackett, the 2021 Stagg Bowl MVP, is also with the Hurricanes, after working on the Cru coaching staff this past fall as a graduate assistant. A linebacker, Hackett’s collegiate career spanned from 2018-2021, culminating in an outstanding national title game performance in which he intercepted two passes and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
The third American is former Air Force defensive back Marquis Griffin, with another American import set to join the team within the next two weeks.
“As far as football goes, it’s mostly the same,” King said. “The roster numbers aren’t quite as high as they were in the states, so you really have to keep each other healthy. Our American imports are good, we have some imports from Britain and an import from Sweden, and we have some German dudes who can play too. We have a really good receiving corps, so I’m excited to get started as far as games go.”
The season opener is set for May 21, when Saarland visits the Allgau Comets in a road contest, with kickoff at 3:00 p.m. in Germany (8 a.m. US Central Time). King’s coalescence with his receivers still has a few more weeks to form, but he said his knowledge of the playbook is strong, and while there is a language barrier at times, communication has come relatively easy.
“As far as the passing schemes go, it’s all American stuff because our offensive coordinator is from Alabama. He has some good stuff. I like the offensive playbook a lot. I’ve gotten it down pretty well.
“I have a quarterback coach too. He doesn’t speak great English, so I’ve had to work through some stuff with him [as far as the language barrier goes]. The language barrier is challenging sometimes, but pretty much everyone on the team speaks English, so it’s been a pretty easy transition.”
Having Hackett alongside him has helped in the transition too. Most players who venture overseas do not get the chance to do it with someone they have played the last four years with, but the two Texans are making their own way–together.
“I didn’t realize how much having Mikkah was going to make this experience so much smoother than it would’ve been without him,” King said. “We’ve kind of said this to each other, but I don’t know if I’d want to do this experience with somebody I don’t know. It’s almost a dream-like scenario, getting to play with someone I won a national championship with and who is one of my best friends.
“It’s an opportunity I never thought we’d get again after we played that last game in Canton in 2021 together. We get to suit up and go to war with each other again. I didn’t realize how much I was going to need Mikkah and how much it means to have someone that I am close with here.”
Not only has the football experience been positive, but so has the first several weeks of adjusting to Germany as a country, which, quite obviously, has its differences from King’s hometown of Milano, Texas. He is just a few miles from the border of France, and absorbing the unique opportunities he has been afforded to become part of a new culture, and experience a different way of life.
“You look out the window and there are some rolling hills. Over those hills is the French border. Everything is kind of surreal. At night, you’re walking downtown, and everything is lit up. It’s almost like a movie. In Europe or at least in Germany, nobody sits inside restaurants. If the weather is nice, everybody is sitting outside. Sure, football is why I’m here. But if I never play another snap of football after Germany, the experience alone is something that I’ll always be able to hold onto.”