The first day underclassmen can officially declare for the 2008 Draft is Tuesday.
King set two goals for himself when he left Gateway High in Monroeville, Pa., for the greener pastures of State College. According to Smith, a former Penn State receiver, King believes he has accomplished both of those goals.
“He wanted to get an education and a degree from Penn State, which he did,” Smith stated. “He wanted to help turn Penn State around, and he did that, too."
King, a first-team All-Big Ten cornerback who is expected by many to be an early round pick, graduated in December with a degree in liberal arts with an emphasis in sports management.
He committed to Penn State in November of 2004, at a time when the Nittany Lions had stumbled through four losing seasons in five years. King was a 5-star recruit, and in picking PSU sent a strong signal that the program was not dead. He enrolled in January of 2005, intent on getting a jump on his academic career and making an early impact with the Lions.
He did both. King played on both sides of the ball as a true freshman in 2005. In 2006, he focused on playing cornerback, and drew rave reviews for shutting down future first-round draft picks Ted Ginn of Ohio State and Robert Meacham of Tennessee. He appeared to have he hands full in a couple of games in 2007, but still led the team with a Big Ten best 17 pass defenses while winning first-team All-Conference notice.
Penn State has been to bowl games in each of King's three seasons, winning all three.
Near the end of the 2007 season, the 6-foot, 186-pounder said he was “50-50” on whether to return for his final year or enter the NFL Draft. He submitted paperwork to the NFL advisory committee in November to gauge the round in which he might be drafted. According to Smith, the committee said the second or third round.
But he added that that information had little bearing on King's choice.
“The decision was ultimately Justin's to make,” Smith said. “We sat down as a family and discussed his options and we just felt the timing was right and it was time for him to move on to the next step in his life.
“He notified [PSU defensive coordinator] Tom Bradley of his decision Tuesday,” Smith continued. “He is out in Arizona at API right now, working out and preparing for the draft.”
API is the Athletes' Performance Institute, a training facility in Tempe, Ariz.
Smith said King spoke with Penn State coach Joe Paterno shortly after the Alamo Bowl and that the Nittany Lion head man was behind him no matter what option he chose.
"Joe said whatever decision Justin would make, he would support it," Smith said. "But he had to make the decision for himself."
King had not signed with an agent as of this writing. According to Smith, so long as he son does not sign, he has until Jan. 18 to withdraw his name from consideration for the draft. But Smith did not envision a scenario where that would happen.
King will be Penn State's first early entry into the NFL Draft since linebacker LaVar Arrington was the second overall pick in 2000.