Tampa Bay native Darnell King finds success with hometown team

“My motto is if I am on the field, I’m doing the right thing," says Rowdies defender

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–Darnell King welcomes new challenges and won’t allow anyone or anything to stand in the way of him and the soccer field.

The Tampa Bay defender went from college walk-on to starting defender in the NASL, appearing in 32 of 34 matches for the Rowdies in 2016. The club has now moved to the United Soccer League for 2017.

“I always wanted to play professional and play at a high level against the best competition,” Darnell said, last Thursday afternoon.

Getting on the field hasn’t always been easy for King who, after playing high school soccer at Gaither High in Tampa, received no Division I scholarship offers.

“I got a lot of D-II and D-III (offers) but I said to myself, that’s not what I want to do, if I play I want to play Division I.”

King went on to lead Florida Atlantic University in goals three seasons in a row, being named team captain his senior season.

Despite excelling at the collegiate level, he received no professional contracts initially.

“I went to an NASL tryout and played well, so when I didn’t hear back from them, I contacted the coaches myself,” said King, who managed to convince the coaching staff of the Ft Lauderdale Strikers, who play in the NASL, to give him a chance.

King didn’t get consistent playing time until the Strikers starting right-back went down.

“Coaches came to me because they thought I was athletic. I went back there and did really well I was best 11 that year for my position” King explained.

King performed so well at the defensive position he signed with the Rowdies who play in his hometown of Tampa.

The Rowdies and King have their eye on the next level. The USL team has put forth a bid to enter the MLS by 2019.

“I always focus on the present, but the MLS is exciting, I want to get there and play the best competition.”