Kalen King and Chop Robinson on becoming superstars for Penn State’s defense

• Penn State cornerback Kalen King and edge defender Chop Robinson sit down for an exclusive interview with PFF.

• Among the best in the country at their positions: King came in second in our cornerback rankings, while Robinson placed third for edge defenders.

• Projected first-round picks: Both King and Robinson were top-20 picks in our way-too-early 2024 NFL Mock Draft.

Estimated Reading Time: 6 minutes

To hip-hop enthusiasts, “4:44″ represents the title of Jay-Z’s critically acclaimed 13th studio album.

To college football fans, it's a reminder of the two superstars on Penn State’s defense.

Kalen King rocks No. 4 and is among the best cornerbacks in college football. However, he’s predicting an even higher ranking.

“If I’m in a game, I’ll say little phrases to myself like, ‘I’m the best in the country,’” King said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “I just keep saying it and keep manifesting it. And everything I’ve been saying lately has been coming true.”

Meanwhile, Chop Robinson wears No. 44 and placed third in our edge defender rankings. Like King, he feels that’s far too low.

“No question,” Robinson said in an exclusive interview with PFF. “I definitely feel like I’m the best edge rusher in college football.”

While the two share the same field now, they took very different paths to get there. 

Both Kalen and his twin brother, linebacker Kobe King, came to Penn State out of Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan. Kalen knew he and his brother could go places because they worked harder than anyone else, even as little kids.

“I first realized I could be good when I was like 8 years old,” King said. “My brother and I would wake up with my dad at 6 o’clock every morning and just run miles. We’d go to the field and my dad would throw the ball super high in the air and we’d fight to catch it. It got competitive really early.”

Like the King twins, Robinson was also part of the 2021 recruiting class. However, he didn’t land in Happy Valley, Pennsylvania, until April 2022, after transferring from Maryland. While King morphed into a star as a little kid, Robinson was a different breed from Day 1 — literally.

“When I was born, I was 14 pounds,” he said. “So growing up, my nickname was ‘Porkchop.’ My dad gave me that name. Once I got older, I started to slim down. So I was like, ‘I can’t be called Porkchop because I’m not big anymore.’ So I cut it down to ‘Chop,’ and it’s been that ever since.” 

While Robinson and King took different paths to becoming Nittany Lions, they both chose Penn State for the same reason.

“Penn State brought me in because of their coaches,” King said. “They were the most genuine, the easiest to talk to. I trusted those guys and I’m glad I made that decision.”

“There wasn’t any hesitation,” Robinson said. “I was heavily recruited by Coach [James] Franklin coming out of high school, so I already had a relationship with him and all of the other coaches on the staff. So, it was a no-brainer coming here.”

Together in 2022, they blossomed into superstars. King led all FBS cornerbacks in single coverage with a 93.3 grade and an 18.3 passer rating allowed. Robinson paced all Power Five edge defenders in overall grade (90.6) and pass-rushing grade (92.4). King attributes his breakout year to his mindset.

“I feel like every time a ball is thrown at me, [the quarterback] is throwing it at me, not the receiver I’m guarding. Me,” he said. “If a quarterback throws the ball in my direction, he’s trying to pick on me more than he is trying to pass it to his teammate. It might sound crazy, but that’s my logic. Every single time a quarterback throws it my way, I get offended.” 

Robinson instead credits his physical ability as what allows him to overpower opposing offensive tackles.

“My speed and my strength,” he said when asked what separates him from other edge defenders. “I’m able to bend around the corner on the big linemen. They’re like 6-foot-6, 300 pounds. Having a guy my size and being able to move as quickly and use my hands to bend the corner is just very effective.”

One of the only offensive tackles capable of handling Robinson is Olu Fashanu, who also happens to be his teammate. Fashanu is currently a projected top-10 pick in the 2024 NFL Draft and mentioned in a past PFF interview how Robinson and the rest of Penn State’s defensive line are the best he’s ever gone against.

“They’re crazy, but in the best way possible,” Fashanu said.

“Going against [him] every single day in practice, iron sharpens iron,” Robinson said. “He’s making me better, I’m making him better. Once we go out there during the game, it’s [a piece of] cake. It’s simple.”

While Robinson gets to face his best competition every day in practice, King is circling Oct. 21 on his calendar. That’s when he faces Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., the best receiver in college football.

“I’m very excited to go up against him,” King said. “Marvin Harrison Jr. is a very good player. He’s got all the intangibles from size, speed, catch radius and run after catch. That’s the perfect challenge for me, and that’s the challenge I need to put myself up against if I want to be the top in the country. That matchup is very important, and I can’t wait for it.”

Does that mean King will be left on an island with Harrison?

“I’m going to try and work something out,” he said.

King and Robinson have the utmost confidence in themselves, but they also hold that same trust in each other.

“Chop is just a force,” King said. “Some games, he doesn’t even wear gloves. That’s when I knew he was a little bit crazy. He doesn’t wear gloves, arm sleeves, nothing. He just puts the shoulder pads and pants on and walks out there. That’s when I knew he was serious because he’s dangerous. He’s explosive, he’s fast, he’s aggressive. He just gets to the quarterback. He makes my life easier. I love Chop.”

“He’s so aggressive for his size,” Robinson said of King. “He has great speed, he always uses his hands. Having that on the defense, it honestly helps me out because it gives me time to get back to the quarterback. If I didn’t have him in the secondary, I wouldn’t be the player that I am today.”

While the respect is there on the field, Robinson revealed just how close they are off the field, as well.

“We have a great relationship,” he said. “We actually came up with a handshake for this season coming up.”

Which is?

“I can’t tell you what it is,” King said. “You’ll just have to wait and see. We definitely have something cooking up.”

“You just have to wait for it,” Robinson said.

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