By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor
GREEN BAY – At just 29 years old, Green Bay local DaVonte King has become a pillar of support and a mentor for many young men and aspiring athletes in the area.
Now an assistant coach for varsity football at N.E.W. Lutheran High School, his alma mater, King is able to use his knowledge of the game of football and his life experiences to guide the young men on his team to be both better players, and better people.
“I started playing football in fourth grade, and then when I was in eighth grade I contracted MRSA staph infection and I ended up losing my leg. I continued to play football after I had gotten my prosthetic my sophomore year of high school,” said King.
King said that having to cope with the unexpected loss of his leg at such a young age was not an easy feat, especially when never learning the true cause of the infection.
“I honestly don’t know. They say it was either from another player or it was from something at one of the football fields,” said King about his knowledge of how the infection was originally contracted.
After a tumultuous freshman year of high school attending Green Bay Preble, some guidance from close friends brought him to the decision to transfer to N.E.W. Lutheran High school his sophomore year where he would feel at home for the next three seasons of his career as a student athlete.
“I was his football coach in middle school when he got MRSA,” explained N.E.W. Lutheran Head Coach Dick Hassler. “I went down as a representative of our team and as the coach and really got to know his family and just saw how much this kid was suffering and how much he needed people by him.”
Hassler was a close friend of King’s and spent a lot of time around him the year he lost his leg as the coach of his Allouez Buccaneers football team. After convincing him to continue to play football by transferring to N.E.W. Lutheran, Hassler said he was thrilled to see King thrive in the Green Bay athletic community.
A community of love and support
“He recuperated and went back to school and ended up at Preble, and I was like ‘You can come and play football over with us,’ and he came over and he’ll tell you it was the best thing he ever did. We all really made a big impact on his life when he was a young man,” said Hassler of King’s support system.
“I’ve known him since I was an eighth grader and he’s honestly had a huge impact on my life. We always had this play called 31-Dive and he would tell me to go out there and run like a train and I would run like a train and get touchdowns and ever since then he’s just kind of been my go-to guy,” said King regarding Hassler’s influence on his life.
However, King said that his support system also spanned far beyond the football community.
“I had a huge support system — I had tons of family, my football team, my soccer team, my whole middle school, but my rock, honestly, was my mom. She was with me every step of the way.”
King said that his relationship with his mother is at the core of his life as an adult, and he still depends on her today for her unwavering love and support.
A learning experience
Despite encountering a major setback at such a young age, King said that he has learned many valuable lessons from the situation, but one stands above all.
“I learned that no matter what happens in life you can’t give up on yourself, and you’ve just got to keep pushing through,” advised King. “You’re going to have days when you are going to get down on yourself but you’re just going to have to push yourself through it and know that it’s going to get better.”
Although his time spent on the field in high school was invaluable to him, King said that his favorite memories of football have been in recent years on the sidelines as a coach.
“There are so many good memories. I would say my favorite memory as of right now is going from last year, winning no games, to this year winning our first game and seeing the excitement on the kids’ faces and seeing how happy they were,” said King.
Giving back to other young men in the community by imparting his understanding of the game of football and of life has become a prominent priority in King’s life.
“Just being able to teach the kids the fundamentals and watching them excel and become better young men is really rewarding.”
King’s former high school teammate, and now co-worker, N.E.W. Lutheran Athletic Director Jared Gosse said that King’s influence both on and off the field has helped to guide many young players to grow into respectable men.
“That hard work and character from overcoming a traumatic event definitely translates to what he does on the field as a coach with our athletes, how he raises his two boys, and how he helps me become a better person. He is always happy, always smiling and joking around,” said Gosse.
“Having an alumni back to help the program he helped shape is a powerful and special thing to have. God has blessed DaVonte and given him a unique opportunity to show our kids that no matter what happens in life, through hard work, commitment and trust in God, you can overcome any situation that is thrown your way.”
King said that he has strong respect for those who have stuck by him all these years.
“I met Jared my sophomore year of high school. I played with him for three years, and honestly it was great. Even though we didn’t have that great of a winning record in high school, we bonded and made a friendship through it and we are still friends to this day and are now coaching together,” King said.
Gosse said that he is honored to be able to coach alongside King, and that they learn from each other every day.
“I know I can rely on him to do his duties as a coach and do those to the best of his ability while also being an accountability partner for me and making sure I am doing the same,” said Gosse.
Everything has really come full circle for King and he said that he is very privileged to be able to coach alongside his former coach — Hassler, and his former teammate — Gosse after all these years.
“I was coaching at Allouez for a while while Jared was still in school and Dick was coaching at N.E.W., but I’ve always just maintained some kind of communication with them,” explained King. “I came back in 2020 to coach the middle school football team and then last year I got moved up to varsity and have been there ever since.”
Although N.E.W. Lutheran is a smaller school and runs a non-traditional 8-player football team in a partnership with Providence Academy and Oneida Nation United, King said that their program is invaluable to the student athletes who participate.
“I think it’s important because kids — regardless of enrollment or whatever the reason may be — are always going to need some type of outlet, whether that be football, soccer, softball, baseball, whatever. I think it’s good that these kids have something to look forward to.”
Although King primarily works to teach and coach the young athletes he works with, he said that he is constantly influenced by those around him at N.E.W. Lutheran, and at home.
“They all influence my life greatly. I have two little boys and they come to practice with me. If they ever don’t want to come to practice then my grandparents or my mom will watch them. Everybody has been pretty great.”
Hassler said that King’s mark on the N.E.W. Lutheran Blazer’s football team is irreplaceable.
“It means a lot to me that he is coaching here, and Jared as well. Those are two guys who mean an awful lot to me and you know he just loves the game of football. He’s got passion for football and he’s got passion for these kids. They respect him,” said Hassler.
“I think right from the beginning he was a young man that was determined to live life the best he could even with a setback like that. He inspires people with the type of disability he has because it’s not going to hold him back. He’s always going to go for it, and he has learned that you really can do anything that you put your mind to, and for these young kids to see him out there even with a helmet on, running plays with them and stuff, it really just is incredible to see him.”
Gosse said that aside from the impact he has had on the young athletes he coaches, King has left his mark on himself as well.
“I played football in high school and college and I can honestly say that DaVonte was the hardest worker I have ever played with or against. As a senior, he received All-Conference recognition at Defensive Line in the Olympian-Packerland Conference which had dominant forces such as Brillion and Hilbert, on only one leg!”
Vernon Stevens, a current senior on the N.E.W. Lutheran football team said that King’s influence on him and his teammates is something they never take for grated.
“Coach King is definitely one of the coolest coaches I’ve ever had. He 100% has a big impact on our team and on this season,” said Stevens.
Now, King works as a press brake operator at New Tech Metals, spending any free time he has either on the football field, or at home with his two young sons, thankful for every opportunity that this life has given him.