AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – Austintown Fitch offensive lineman Kris King’s dad was his biggest fan.
“I remember the first game I got in against Boardman, my first varsity game,” King said. “I could hear him after every play, ‘Go Kris! Go Kris!’ It felt like a true sense of passion coming from him like he loved to be there.”
Kris King, Sr. also played football at Fitch and is a big reason why King plays the sport.
“He had a huge influence on me,” King added. “He always talked about his glory days, his fun times here at Fitch as a Fitch grad. He definitely was a role model for me.”
On March 8, 2021, King’s dad passed away from COVID-19 complications.
“It was very sudden,” King said. “I was sitting in school and one of his best friends came to the school. They called me down in the office and basically said he wasn’t in good shape at the ER and we drove. When I was in the car with him, I was just hoping he was alright.”
It was just four months before the start of the football camp, but it never crossed King’s mind to not play his senior year.
“Motivation and coming back and being around people and being around his team at times were hard, but Kris made the comment early when it happened last offseason that he wanted to be around the team,” Austintown Fitch head coach TJ Parker said. “He felt like that was his family at that time and he could lean on them.”
His team was certainly there for him. At his dad’s calling hours, Coach Parker and the Falcons gave King his dad’s game-worn jersey, which he now has hung up in his bedroom.
“Every time I wake up, I see it in the morning and I just think about him and what he’s done for the program and how he’ll always be a Fitch Falcon,” King said.
Without his dad in the stands to cheer him on, King keeps his memory alive in his pregame routine.
“I listen to this one voicemail of him,” he said. “It was before the first game I got in on varsity, the Boardman game, just on repeat. It just makes me feel like he’s still with me.”
King’s senior season is slowly winding down. A season full of success for the 7-3 Falcons, but for King, this season means so much more than tallies in a win column.
“I know that missing piece will always be there in his life, but I know now he has that mental fortitude to be successful in any life adventure he has moving forward,” Parker said.
“I just wanted to make him proud, and this season I think is for him,” King said. “I want to dedicate this season to him and just show him the player I can be.