The recipient of the New England Patriots’ 2021 Ed Block Courage Award has had a career of many ups and downs.
Having spent time at Highland Community College and Auburn, Brandon King did not hear his name called in the 2015 NFL Draft. He did eventually find a team when the Patriots signed him as a rookie free agent, but he was no lock to make their roster. Indeed, he had to start his pro career on New England’s practice squad.
However, King made his way onto the active roster and eventually established himself as a core special teamer. Over the next four seasons, he appeared in 68 games and helped the Patriots win two Super Bowls.
After the second of those championships, the injury bug started to bite.
King missed the entire 2019 campaign after tearing his quad during the Patriots’ third preseason game. His 2020 comeback bid did not go any better: New England placed him on the physically unable to perform list ahead of training camp, but he was never activated off it — missing a second straight season on the sidelines.
It actually took him until the summer of 2021 to finally get back onto the field. Once there, he rarely left: despite sitting out back-to-back seasons, the veteran went on to appear in 17 of a possible 18 games and register 10 kicking game tackles. Only three other players saw more special teams snaps over the course of the 2021 season than King.
King’s story of perseverance earned him the Patriots’ Ed Block Courage Award in February. Handed out annually, it is awarded to one player per NFL team that “best exemplifies the principles of courage and sportsmanship while also serving as a source of inspiration.”
According to his peers, King is worthy of that recognition. Last week, he was therefore honored alongside the other 31 winners in a virtual gala.
King explained how he hopes his own journey will serve as inspiration to others.
“I’d love for people to look at me as a person, not what I can do for someone,” he said. “And in the community, I love to be someone that can relate to them. You know what I mean? Someone that can understand, because for me, sometimes you didn’t know where your next meal was coming from. Sometimes the power wasn’t on, you know? Different things happen.
“I’m the type of person where I don’t want people to look at me for what I’ve done. I just want people to look at me for my character.”
King’s future in the NFL is uncertain — he remains unsigned as an unrestricted free agent — but his impact on the Patriots and the community cannot be denied. Neither can the inspirational nature of his career, and how he mastered all the highs and lows along the way.