ORONO, Maine — Matt King knows how to own a room.
That is especially true when that room is Latti Fitness Center, the weight training home for most student-athletes at the University of Maine.
King, a native of Stoughton, Massachusetts, has spent the last three years on UMaine’s speed, strength and conditioning staff and has led the department for the last 20 months or so.
He is an imposing physical presence, one King developed as a football player at the University of Maine from 2002-2006, then augmented during his days in two NFL training camps and while playing in the Canadian Football League, the Arena Football League and the Arena2 league.
Equally as impressive is King’s positive, uplifting demeanor. He exudes energy and enthusiasm, which he has used to motivate Black Bear athletes since his return to UMaine in March 2012.
But don’t let his charisma and infectious smile fool you, he’s very much a taskmaster.
For a man who has put UMaine athletes through so much strain and discomfort in recent years, his departure this week is going to leave a huge void in the department.
King has been hired as the Director of Speed and Athletic Performance at Columbia University in New York.
If his track record of success as an athlete and as a coach wasn’t evidence enough of his worthiness, King also has expanded his educational horizons. He recently earned a Master’s of Education in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from UMaine.
King made himself too marketable to be able to stay at UMaine.
It is a scenario that is all too common at UMaine: Former student-athletes return to their alma mater to begin their coaching careers. These promising and motivated young people learn the ropes and develop their craft — only to be lost to more prestigious, higher-paying positions elsewhere.
Another example is former defensive end and football assistant coach Jordan Stevens of Temple, who earlier this year became the defensive line coach at Yale University.
It’s an unfortunate fact of life in college athletics. The really good ones move on.
King worked with many UMaine teams, but most recently primarily trained with the football, women’s basketball, cross country and track and field squads. Their Twitter tributes when the news came out were numerous:
“S/o to @MKing_SSC on the new job. You made me a better player and athlete and I’ll be forever grateful for that! Good luck!” said junior basketball player Anna Heise.
“Congrats to my man @MKing_SSC on the new job. No one deserves it more, my dude put in some serious hours for #BlackBearNation! Best of luck!” said former baseball standout Mike Fransoso.
The Columbia position is well-deserved and hard-earned for King, who was a consensus Division I-AA (Football Championship Subdivision) All-America linebacker/defensive end at UMaine. As as a senior in 2006, he was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award given to the annually to the best FCS defensive player in the country.
With a tireless work ethic and a can-do attitude, King has set the bar high (and heavy) for his successors in UMaine’s speed, strength and conditioning realm. His influence will continue to be felt around Memorial Gym.