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Former Mustang found more than football at tiny Heidelberg College

He had big dreams, but only marginal talent.

That's how former Lakewood Ranch High linebacker Chris King ended up at tiny Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio.

"The Berg" is about as far away from big-time college football as you can get.

Can you imagine the Florida Gators taking on the Heidelberg Fighting Student Princes?

But there was King, a fresh-faced freshman from Lakewood Ranch. He was gung ho and ready to go.

King played two seasons at Heidelberg before hanging up his cleats and transferring to Florida International University. But he got a lot more than football experience at Heidelberg.

"I grew up," said King, now 23. "I wasn't the best student when I got there, but there wasn't a whole lot to do in the winter except study."

So, he did. And he learned that he enjoyed academics.

He graduated from FIU in 2006 with a degree in psychology. He served an internship at the International Performance Institute at the IMG Academy in Bradenton in 2006 and was hired full-time this year. He works in business development at IPI.

"Chris had the opportunity to do an internship with us," said Trevor Moward, director of IPI. "What we could see right away is that he has a great work ethic and strong aptitude for sports and business."

Work ethic. That label is apropos.

King developed it at Heidelberg and it has served him well.

"When I went to Heidelberg, it was a rude awakening," said King. "Mom wasn't there to make sure you did the things you were supposed to so. You had to mature or else.

"I kind of forced myself to get my grades up. I had no choice."

King said he wasn't the best student at Lakewood Ranch. He fit in, played football and lifted weights. He was average.

"I struggled with math like everyone else," he said. "I liked to have a good time."

While awaiting for his house to be sold on the east coast, King is living with his mom, Joan, stepdad Gary Jones and several brothers and sisters.

King said there's a chance that he could have taken the easy way out while in college, but he was motivated by his family.

"I have two younger sisters, two younger bothers and an older brother," he said. "I wanted them to see me succeed. I wanted them to see what working hard can do for you."

After his internship at IPI, King returned to Miami and worked on the wait staff of Dave and Buster's.

At IPI, it's more than busing tables or taking orders.

It's the culmination of hard work. His ultimate goal was to work in sports.

"I'm around sports in a different way," said King. "I'm in business development and that's a little different than what I had envisioned."

After his senior season at Lakewood Ranch, King thought football would be his ticket. But few programs showed interest. Jacksonville University, a non-scholarship Division I-AA program, was in the mix. The University of South Florida wanted him as a preferred walk-on.

Heidelberg was more serious.

"They flew me up," said King. "It's a small school and I met a lot of the guys. I felt at home."

He played linebacker for two seasons, but could see that football wasn't the answer.

Academics were.

He parlayed success into the job of his dreams.

Not bad for someone who struggled in math.

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