ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — "You ever watch 'The Office' back in the day," I asked Denver Broncos punter Marquette King as the sun shined down on the beginning of the second week of Broncos OTAs.
"I love that show," He responded instantly with a big smile.
I don't know why, but I had a feeling he did.
"Remember that part," I continued, "where Michael Scott looks at Toby and says, 'Why are you the way that you are?'"
King laughed and began to answer before I even needed to specify where I was going with it.
"I think, after years of being worried about what other people thought about me—you exude so much energy into trying to shape yourself into what you think people want you to be when, at the end of the day, it's your life, and you can choose what you want to do," he explained. "I just believe in being different, man. I put so much energy into worrying about what people thought about for so long, and one year I was just like, 'Man, F this, imma be myself.' So I just did it."
There's a bit of irony in the way I framed that question, seeing as Marquette is more of a Michael than he is a Toby. Eccentric, in your face, unafraid to be himself and a bit goofy, to boot. As much publicity he's received for being one of the best punters in the NFL, he's received far more publicity for his "antics" on the field. The dancing, the taunting, the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
Fittingly, the second line in that interaction between Michael and Toby also fits for Marquette King. This time, though, King gets to, rightfully, play the character of Michael.
"Every time I try to do something fun or exciting, you make it not that way," Michael says, berating the HR rep.
You see, when Von Miller dances and messes around on the field, he's celebrated, yet when King does it, he's questioned and mocked.
"It's something they aren't used to," he says of a punter letting loose on the field. "Anytime there is change involved—people don't like change. Even I don't like change when I have coaches telling me to change something up with my punting and stuff. You don't like it, but eventually, you get used to it. I'm something different that people don't normally see and some people just don't accept it because it's never happened before."
"Honestly, I don't give a—I don't care," King reaffirmed. "You know what I'm sayin'? Imma do what I do. Imma do what makes me happy. This is a production business so like, if I'm out there being a robot and I don't play well as a robot, then I'm hurting myself."
The question, though, is—by not being a robot, did he hurt himself, or at least his standing with his former team, the Oakland Raiders?
"Nope. Not at all. I mean, not at all," he began, before deciding to open up a bit more.
There is one more part to that Michael Scott quote, and in this one, King is likely once again on the receiving end.
"I hate so much about the things that you choose to be."
Maybe that one comes from the head coach he briefly had but never met.
"It's one of those things, man. Some people just don't like people when they've never met them before," King explained. "I had somebody tell me the other day, 'I don't like Richard Sherman, man. He talks to much, he does this, he does that,' and in my head, I'm like, 'Man, you've never met Richard Sherman. He's a real good guy.'
"I don't know, it's kind of like everybody is playing in their alter-ego form out here," he continued. "It's like your evil self when you're playing football. It's like you're a different character, you're not your normal self when you're in public, and people like to judge you if you are. Gruden wanted to judge me based off of something from a distance, so I'll let 'em have it."
Getting judged from a distance is something athletes have to deal with often, although it's usually not from their own coaches. One look at his twitter mentions will reveal a lot of hate, mostly centered around the fact that, well, he's a punter.
Usually, he punts on engaging, noting, "People just want you to respond to them," but if you catch him at the wrong time, or the right time, you just might get dunked on. Hard.
"It is fun to talk trash sometimes, but I don't know—it depends—everything has to be right, man," he explains. "I have to have me a good glass of wine, and I have to have my favorite cartoons on."
What kind of wine are we talking about?
"We talkin' bout Cabernet," he said putting a hard and intentional emphasis on 'net.' "I love cab."
And the cartoons?
"I'm starting to watch some more of the cartoon network stuff," King concluded. "The cartoon network stuff is fire."
You can call Marquette King a lot of things, just don't call him fake.