Star RB King takes part in first practice at GAC

NORCROSS - Coming into the season, the Greater Atlanta Christian football team was already expected to be very good.

At approximately 8 p.m. on Wednesday, it got a whole lot better.

That's when Parkview transfer Caleb King, ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 1 running back in the nation, jogged onto the GAC practice field for the first time.

Wearing his gold helmet, white jersey, and white pants with his new teammates, King turned an early August practice into perhaps one of the most important days in GAC football history.

Along with news trucks from four local television stations, more than 50 parents and students came out to watch the first practice with King.

"That was a different kind of thing," GAC senior quarterback Lee Chapple said with a laugh.

Said head coach Jimmy Chupp: "We've never had this many people come to a practice ... and I think our kids just really enjoyed watching him and seeing him run."

Never before has the Spartan program boasted a player of King's stature or caliber, a player who rushed for 2,765 yards in Class AAAAA as a junior and who many people think could now be the determining factor in the Class AA state championship race.

GAC has had plenty of Division I players in the past - the school has 20 former athletes playing college football right now - but King is different.

Different than Wake Forest junior Micah Andrews, who rushed for a county-record 2,871 yards as a senior for the Spartans. Different than even current UGA fullback Brannan Southerland, who might be the most high-profile recruit that GAC has ever had.

Well, until approximately 8 p.m. on Wednesday that is.

King's first practice with his teammates was interrupted by a lightning delay - the Spartans went inside the gym for 40 minutes - before resuming under the lights on the school's soccer field.

It didn't take long for the 205-pound speedster to make his presence felt.

Lining up at safety, King read a play-action pass to the flat and unloaded on an unsuspecting tight end.

A few minutes later he bulldozed a lead-blocking fullback to make a tackle in the backfield on a toss sweep, eliciting "oohs" from his teammates on the sideline.

"I appreciate somebody who's willing to hit and who's not afraid," said GAC lineman T-Bob Hebert. "And that's impressive, too. Because he can play both ways."

And in the few carries he got on offense he showed he's not too bad with the ball in his hands either.

"Just watching him in practice you can really see he's so explosive and he's got great vision," Chupp said. "He's just a really good running back."

It was the first time Chupp and most of the Spartans had ever seen their new star running back in person.

Most had only see him via highlight film.

"One time at my friend's house my friend was looking at him on the computer and I saw some of his clips," Hebert said with a laugh. "They were pretty nice."

The summer-long saga of where King was going to play his senior year finally ended on Tuesday when he officially withdrew from Parkview and enrolled at GAC.

But the five-star recruit, with over 60 scholarship offers, didn't hit the practice field with his new teammates until Wednesday.

And those new teammates came away quite impressed.

"He looked good," said Hebert, a fellow Division I recruit. "I think he's really going to help us this year. I think the most important thing is going to be making him part of the team."

Said Chapple: "He doesn't talk much, but he gets the job done. He's just a really good kid."

The head coach wasn't all that displeased with his new tailback either.

"Yeah, he's a really good football player," Chupp said. "I just really hope it's a good match for him, and that he enjoys being here. He seemed to enjoy it. The team seemed to enjoy playing with him and it seemed like he enjoyed being with these kids."

King's older brother Andre, a volunteer community coach with the Spartans, has been quoted repeatedly as saying the smaller class sizes and Christian environment were the main reasons why Caleb was enrolling at GAC.

Whatever the reason was, one thing is crystal clear: At approximately 8 p.m. on Wednesday the Greater Atlanta Christian Spartans football team got a whole lot better.