Colorful Character

Kim King The 'Young Left-Hander' is more than just a radio commentator; he's made a hobby out of Georgia Tech

By Hoyt Coffee

Kim King still recalls vividly how he went from being a former Yellow Jacket quarterback to the "young left-hander," the color commentator for Georgia Tech football.

"Coach Bobby Dodd, my coach, had retired and was athletic director, and Milo Hamilton, who used to do the Tech broadcasts, was leaving to go to Pittsburgh to be the Steelers and Pirates announcer," said King, IM '68. "So Al Ciraldo was taking over the play-by-play. Coach Dodd called me and asked if I would do the color.

"I'll never forget the call. He said, 'Kimmie, I want you to do me a favor.' And I said, 'Sure, coach. What?' And he said, 'I want you to be the color announcer on the radio network.' I said, 'Well, coach, I never had any training. I won't know....' And he said, 'Don't worry. Just don't talk too much, and you'll do fine.'"

That was in 1974. Today, the Tech Hall of Famer still spends every football Saturday, and a few Thursday nights, painting the play-by-play for Jackets faithful.

"It's been a great way to be part of the Tech program and get to know coaches and players, and continue the interest I've had since I was a player myself," King said in an interview three days after the Jackets upset Virginia. "And it's exciting. It sort of keeps you young. And to have Al call me the young left-hander when I started--I was young at that time--to have him to refer to me that way now, I really appreciate that."

Little Time

Sitting in the blue and mauve upstairs office of a converted two-story house in Vinings, a trendy village northwest of Atlanta, King still looks fit--blond and trim with youngish features despite the 30 years that separate those days as a quarterback from these as a sports commentator. Two neat stacks of sports media guides sit atop a walnut coffee table, flanked by contemporary chairs and a sofa. Matching shelves behind an expansive desk are filled with memorabilia, oriental vases, a collage of family photos and a prominently displayed Tech degree, all framing an oversized humidor stocked with cigars.

A putter leans against one wall beneath a steeplechase painting, belying the outdoorsman who likes to spend what little free time he has hunting and fishing on a thousand-acre farm in Coweta County. And the free time is little. In addition to his broadcasting, King is a successful real estate developer and a father of three with his wife of 27 years, Gail. He serves on the Georgia Tech Foundation board of trustees and the Athletic Association board, and he has held leadership positions in Georgia Tech clubs in Atlanta.

"Georgia Tech is a hobby of mine," King said. "I enjoy very much the work we do as trustees. I take great pride in that. It keeps me in touch with the whole Tech world--academics, research, alumni affairs, athletics. It gives me an opportunity to understand what's going on in the world of Georgia Tech. I like to stay involved.

"Sports is also a hobby. I go to all the football games, and I go to all the basketball games at home. I attend all the baseball games and participate as much as I can, watching Tech play and enjoying it."

King first took up his hobby in the mid-'60s as quarterback of the Yellow Jackets team that featured the likes of all-Americans Lenny Snow and Jim Breland under the tutelage of Tech's legendary coach, who King said taught him to be successful not only on the playing field, but in other endeavors as well.

"He wanted to win as bad as anybody I've ever known. But he had a balance about him," King said of the venerable Bobby Dodd. "He didn't want to win at any cost. Integrity was very much in the forefront. And then his concerns for the student-athletes were a priority. He was more concerned about our education than he was about our getting ready for a game." King recalled how some assistant coaches were angered when players had to miss practice to go to labs, and how Dodd told them "education came first."

Lasting Values

So the values that you learned from Coach Dodd were more than just football values. They were a lot about life, about the priorities of life, the value of education. It's a big world out there, and there's a lot more in it than just football." Dodd came to mind as well when King revealed one of his most cherished moments as an announcer--when the United Press International coaches' poll named the undefeated 1990 Yellow Jackets national champions.

"I went a little bonkers when it happened. That was a great thrill," he said. "The only sad thing to me was Coach Dodd was not alive to experience it."

Chances are King will experience more such memories to cherish. Still vigorous and healthful, and disliking idleness, he plans to stay at the microphone as long as he feels "the excitement of the game and Georgia Tech."

"I went to talk to the Jacksonville Georgia Tech Club a couple of weeks ago, and I started my speech by saying I'm proud of Georgia Tech. I mean that sincerely. It's a great school.

"I realize more every year what a valuable asset Georgia Tech is, not just to the city or the state or the region, but to the nation and the world. I really believe in the next 25 years the technological changes will be so fast and so rampant, so integral to the way we live, the way we interact with each other, that Georgia Tech will be a leader. I see the value of Georgia Tech continuing to soar."

Back to you, Al.