Published Dec. 6, 1999|Updated Sept. 30, 2005

Refreshing and cool, most definitely, but is it good for you? The Bucs will find out when rookie Shaun King makes his first start in a fight for first place.

Shaun King plays with heart, even if it beats rather slowly in his chest.

That's the first thing that teammates and coaches noticed about the Bucs rookie quarterback.

No worries. It's as plain as the yawn on his face. Confidence is King, especially when he is under center.

King was asked for the umpteenth time last week if he was nervous about getting his first NFL start on Monday Night Football against the Minnesota Vikings.

"No nerves, no nerves," King said. "I know I have a job to do. I'll go out and do my best. I'm not afraid to mess up. I'm not afraid to fail."

That might be because King rarely does. The last time King participated in a game his team lost was Nov. 15, 1997 when Mississippi defeated Tulane 41-24. The winning streak has extended to 14 regular-season games.

Players would say they have confidence in their teammate if the Bucs were starting B.B King at quarterback. But it's genuine when they speak of the former Gibbs High star and they are willing to provide examples.

It took all of a few days in training camp for receiver Bert Emanuel to hang a nickname on King that stuck like glue.

"When I first saw him in training camp, I just thought he was very smooth," said Emanuel, who played quarterback at Rice. "In fact, he reminded me of me when I was a quarterback. He was very confident and very smooth. I called him Smooth. Then I got to thinking about it. Smooth King. Smoothie King. It kind of fit."

King started quickly, leading his team to a touchdown in all four preseason games, including a game-winner on the final play at Washington to cap a 4-0 record for the Bucs. One play after an instant replay review reversed an apparent TD pass by King, he threw a perfect fade pass to rookie Darnell McDonald for the winning score.

"For me, it was the Redskins game," defensive tackle Warren Sapp said. "We were going down the stretch, trying to win four in a row and have an undefeated preseason. And I remember how chaotic that two-minute drive was. Everything that could possibly happen was happening. Replays, penalties _ all kinds of stuff. I remember walking up to the sidelines and looking out there to see how the kid reacts to it. It was his first big-time pressure situation. Because it was pressure on him. But the kid was just standing out there like, "Just call the next play and I can get it done.' I remember telling Steve White, "Damn, he looks calm as hell out there.' Because you expect him to be a little jittery."

The Bucs were convinced of King's cool even prior to the draft, before he quarterbacked the Tony Dungy-coached South squad to victory at the Senior Bowl.

"One of the really impressive things for me is when we went over to St. Pete to work him out at Gibbs High School," said Bucs quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen. "It was one of those 35 mile per hour days where the wind is blowing. Your average quarterback cancels the workout. You don't want to look bad. His first question was, "What do you want me to throw.' He wasn't trying to make sure he had the wind behind him. He threw it into the wind, a couple took off and landed in the stands and he just kept chunking it. It confirmed to me that the guy has something special to him."

Off the field, King has carried himself like an established veteran. When King and Anthony McFarland, who both played collegiately in Louisiana, were ordered by veterans to pony up for the post-game spread at New Orleans, they responded with a catered Cajun buffet that would make Emeril proud.

"It's everything," guard Frank Middleton said. "You can add more words to it. It's Shaun King. Shaun King came in wanting to be the starter, knowing he can be the starter. I think, if he had to, he could start at right guard. But I won't give it to him. That's the way he is. He believes he can play anything, he believes he can call his own plays. I guess it's a St. Pete thing, but the guy has great confidence and I don't know where it came from."

Dungy also is at a loss to describe the intangible King possesses, but he has seen it before.

"I think some guys just have it," Dungy said. "I remember my last year playing (with the 49ers) when (Joe) Montana was a rookie and he only played in one game. But in practice, you just felt like this guy is pretty good. You didn't know what to base that off of. It was just how he was. Joe wasn't cocky and he didn't say much.

"Everyone expects Shaun to go in and play well. We expect that to happen. He'll have the normal problems that young guys have. But in our offense, he doesn't have to throw 40 passes. He doesn't have to be on and make great plays. We've got a lot of ways we can win and have won this year. Hopefully, that will take a lot of pressure off of him. You can't expect one guy to be the savior."

But there's nothing wrong with being King for a day.

"He does have that swagger. He's very laid back, he doesn't get real high and he doesn't get real low," Emanuel said. "I think he needs to stay even-keeled because it could get very easy to get overexcited.

"This is what you dream about since you're a little kid. To start on Monday Night Football. This is huge."