CALEB N. KING, LT, USN
Caleb King '12
Date of birth: September 2, 1988
Date of death: March 14, 2018
From The Orlando Sentinel on March 16, 2018
Port Orange native and former Central Florida high-school football standout Caleb King was one of the two crew members killed Wednesday [March 14, 2018] when a U.S. Navy fighter jet crashed off the coast of Key West, according to multiple sources.
King, 30, played football at Warner Christian Academy in South Daytona and later at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he was a three-year starter at linebacker before graduating in 2012. He is survived by his wife, Victoria, and 15-month-old daughter Rain.
King was the weapons officer on a F/A-18 Super Hornet that was on approach to land at a naval air station around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday when it crashed into shallow water about a mile east of the runway. Both crew members ejected and were rescued, but U.S. Naval Air Forces reported late Wednesday night that both had died. The crew was based out of Naval Air Station Oceana, in Virginia Beach.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
The Navy has not released the names of those involved in the crash, but King's death was confirmed by his brother, Joshua.
Joshua King, who lives locally, spoke Thursday of treasured childhood memories of he and Caleb, racing go-karts and playing Pop Warner football growing up in Port Orange. Joshua, 31, said he never played in high school because of his grades and other personal struggles.
"I've been proud of my brother for God knows how long," Joshua said. "He had the heart and the determination to do whatever he wanted to do. He lived a very short life, but he lived a very full life."
Joshua said he attempted to reach his brother on Wednesday evening upon learning the crash involved Caleb's squadron. When Caleb didn't respond immediately, Joshua assumed it was simply a matter of protocol. He didn't know the truth until receiving a call from his father, Darrell, later that night.
"From the tone of his voice, I just knew that my brother was in that plane, and that he wasn't OK," Joshua said.
King was physically imposing. Listed at 6 feet tall and weighing 223 pounds in his playing days, he earned the nickname "Juggernaut" from his squadron since he needed to be measured to make sure he'd fit in the cockpit.
However, he was remembered as soft-spoken and kindhearted. Joshua said his younger brother and his wife often fed the homeless and spent time in orphanages in Nicaragua.
Joshua said Caleb remained humble, even as he was drawing attention from a handful of the nation's top football programs. During Caleb's senior year, Joshua recalls overhearing a phone conversation his brother had with former Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer.
"I was like, 'Well, what did he say?' and he said, '(Meyer) wants me to come play there,' " Joshua recalled. "It was crazy, like that it was no big deal."
King was a two-year starter for Navy at linebacker after playing part-time his sophomore year. His career totals included 61 tackles and one interception on Navy teams that were a combined 24-15 those three years.
Andy Price coached King throughout his time at Warner Christian before King graduated in 2006, and described King as someone that would "give you the shirt off (his) back."
Price learned of King's death around 4 a.m. Thursday. He said he woke up to several texts from his brother and a missed call from Navy offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper.
"My heart dropped," Price said. "It's a tragedy. I feel for the family. It's a loss for me, and everyone that knew the kid. But I can't even imagine how they're feeling."
Price kept in contact with King during his time at the Naval Academy. He also received King's jersey from the 2009 Texas Bowl, a 35-13 win for the Midshipmen over Missouri. The framed jersey hung in Price's office for several years at Warner, and the coach still has it in his home.
"He was a kid that always did what he was supposed to do and was always somebody everyone else could look up to," Price said.
Former teammate John Seravalli remembers King as a player the Eagles relied upon. King rushed for 1,290 yards and 15 touchdowns while taking Warner Christian within one win of the Class 1B state finals. Seravalli recalls one victory in particular from that 2006 season. The Eagles, who played in Class 1B at the time, were outmanned by roughly 60 players against Deltona, a much larger Class 6A program.
That night, King tallied more than 20 tackles, recorded an interception and rushed for a touchdown.
"He was getting three yards after contact and falling forward for three more. He was a horse that night," said Seravalli, who played safety and quarterback for the Eagles. "When it was 14-7 and Deltona was in the red zone with about a minute left, he made a big stop that forced them to put the ball in the air. After one stop he made, I literally looked at the sky and said 'freakin' Caleb King, man' with a huge smile."
Current Atlantic High football coach D.J. Mayo is a former Warner Christian player, assistant and head coach. He was an assistant coach under Price during King's years at Warner.
"I thought he was a really special player," Mayo recalled. "He was a hell of a kid. Even when he was in middle school, he was always tough as nails. Sometimes kids are talented, but not coachable. He was definitely a very, very coachable kid."
Mayo said he last saw King during the spring football season in 2017. He said he received a text on Thursday morning telling him that King was involved in the crash.
"I just hate it," Mayo said. "He was so excited, the last time I saw him, about his future."
U.S. Representative Ron DeSantis, (FL-6), eulogized Caleb on the floor of the House of Representatives: