Record-setting passer, runner, Hall of Fame member Don King passes away

Anderson, S.C. native still holds Clemson freshman rushing record, led Tigers in passing four straight years

Don King, who established a Clemson freshman single game rushing record in 1952 that still stands today, passed away on Thursday evening.

The native of Anderson, SC played for the Tigers and Head Coach Frank Howard from 1952-55 as a quarterback and tailback. On November 4, 1952 he rushed for 234 yards in a tie game at Fordham, the last time Clemson has played a football game in New York City.

Fordham entered the game leading the nation in rushing defense. King played the tailback position in this game because of injuries to Clemson’s regular running backs. It was the only game King played tailback in his Clemson career. It is still the third most rushing yards in a single game by any Clemson back and a record for a Clemson player in a road game.

King led the Tigers in passing for four straight years and in rushing in 1953. He was the first Clemson player to lead the Tigers in passing four consecutive years. It is an accomplishment that has been equaled only by Nealon Greene (1994-97) and Charlie Whitehurst (2002-05) since.

The 1992 Clemson Hall of Fame inductee was a second-team All-ACC quarterback in 1953 and 1954, his sophomore and junior seasons, respectively. In 1953 he won the Swede Nelson Sportsmanship Award, an honor presented by the Boston Gridiron Club.

The following is a description of the events of a game against Wake Forest in 1953 by then sports information director Brent Breedin that led to King receiving that award.

“Deacons quarterback Sonny George was injured in the third quarter and remained on the field surrounded by coaches, trainers and teammates for at least 15 minutes. At maybe the 10-minute mark, Don left his teammates waiting for action to resume and went over to talk to the Wake Forest crowd and officials; then, George got up and resumed play (under existing rules, had he left the field he would have had to sit out the remainder of the quarter, and Wake did not have a reliable back-up).

“The next day, one of King's teammates explained to the press what had happened on the field. 'Don learned that George would be playing with an injured knee, so he told us to tackle him high and not low, reminding us of his situation (King had knee injuries himself) in several games the past two years.'"

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Comments » 5

dw0422#285789 writes:

I was saddened to learn this evening of the passing of my first cousin, Don King, Jr..

I had gotten to visit him twice (since I live in the Atlanta area) in the last 3-4 months.

And, enjoyed every minute that we had together.

At that time he seemed to be doing ok.

Don was (3) years older than me, and, I enjoyed every football game that I got to see him play
at Clemson.

He was a great football player, both at Andersons boys high and at Clemson.

On one of my two visits to see him I gave him a 1953 Clemson football program (with him on the front). He was excited to get it. I had been saving it from the 1953 season.

It meant a lot to him. He even had copies made to give to various family members.

He told me of a lot of former team members, even
Brent Breedin, and so many others who had been to visit with him.

And, that it was always great to see each and every one of them.

Please pray for him family.

"REST IN PEACE", Don.

You will always have a very special place in my heart.

Your cousin,

Derrell Wright

dw0422@comcast.net

dw0422#285789 writes:

I wrote a comment about my cousin, Don King, Jr. and need it to be published.

TigerMarine writes:

WOW that's sportsmanship. You'll never see that sort of thing in today's game!

leogorcey writes:

I don't understand the comment that he only played tailback in one game. He went to Clemson as a single wing tailback and led the team in passing, so he must have played tailback. The next year he became Clemson's first T quarterback. In the old T there was no "tailback". He must have played halfback against Fordham that day. Please clear this up for me. In high school and college, Don King was magic on the football field and a very good guy off.

KerryCapps writes:

in response to leogorcey:

I don't understand the comment that he only played tailback in one game. He went to Clemson as a single wing tailback and led the team in passing, so he must have played tailback. The next year he became Clemson's first T quarterback. In the old T there was no "tailback". He must have played halfback against Fordham that day. Please clear this up for me. In high school and college, Don King was magic on the football field and a very good guy off.

After a bit of research, it appears to me that you're correct. In the terminology of the day, the 'tailback' received the snap from center and would have been the one passing the ball. The position that Don King played in the game against Fordham could have been designated 'fullback,' or 'halfback' or 'wingback,' depending on where he was aligned. Eventually, the position formerly known as 'tailback' came to be known as the Wing-T Quarterback (who took the snap from center), whereas previously, the 'quarterback' was a blocking back who rarely touched the football.

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