Coming home: Cape native returns to hometown and reconnects with his past

West Virginia State volunteer coach/assistant wide receivers coach Nate King, originally of Cape Girardeau, speaks on the sideline during the Southeast Missouri State Redhawks' 56-10 victory over the West Virginia State Yellow Jackets on Saturday at Houck Stadium.
Jacob Wiegand ~ Southeast Missourian

When Nathan King looked at the 2019 West Virginia State University football schedule this past spring, tears came to his eyes.

“I realized,” King said, “that I would finally get to go home (to Cape Girardeau).”

The 42-year-old is an assistant wide receivers coach for the Yellow Jackets, who lost handily to Southeast Missouri State Saturday at Houck Stadium, 56-10.

He hasn’t been to his birthplace city since Ronald Reagan was president.

“Our family left Cape 35 years ago,” King explained, “and I’ve made West Virginia my longtime home.”

He loves the Mountain State.

“It’s the air, the hills, the people,” said King. “They call it ‘Almost Heaven,’ and it really is.”

Diminutive by football standards at just 5-foot-5, King spent his first seven years of life in a house in the 1200 block of Main Street in Cape.

“(The house) flooded about once a year,” King said. “But it was all right. They put us up in a hotel and it was fun.”

King’s parents, Elihu, Sr. and Dolly King, are SEMO alumni.

While Mom and Dad now live out of state, King still has relatives here and he connected with them when the WVSU bus pulled into town Friday.

“The first thing I did after giving them a hug,” King explained, “was visit Fairmont Cemetery (near the former Notre Dame High School) where my twin brother is buried. It’s been a long time.”

King’s twin, Jonathan, passed away when the brothers were in kindergarten.

The word “blessed” comes easily to King’s lips.

“I was blessed to see my brother’s grave,” he said, “but also blessed to be associated with (the WVSU) program.”

King played four years at West Virginia Tech, has coached semi-pro, and is in his second stint on the Yellow Jackets coaching staff.

King guest lectures at WVSU about the history of football and one day this spring, Yellow Jackets coach John Pennington walked into his classroom and King saw an opening.

“Need some help, Coach?” King asked.

He’s a volunteer now, stalking up and down the sidelines, shouting encouragement to the WVSU offense.

King is employed full-time as veterans director of a social service agency in Charleston, just nine miles from the WVSU campus.

He knows what he’ll say to West Virginians who ask about his hometown.

“I’ll tell them how surprised I am at the growth,” King said. “(Cape) is so big now. I’m really impressed.”

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