Malone Family KJ Malone With Parents

During the offseason, the LSU offensive linemen shot hoops every other Saturday, and center Will Clapp jokingly ribbed his roommate, the team's starting left tackle.

KJ Malone

"You have none of your dad's talent," Clapp said.

He may not demonstrate those skills on the hardwood, but the Mailman's progeny, Karl Anthony Malone Jr. (or K.J. as he's known), delivers road-grading blocks on the offensive line.

The fifth-year senior and pre-season All-SEC first-team left tackle, who enjoys basketball and roots for the Utah Jazz, gave up hoops -- at least on an organized level -- after eighth grade. Part of that was because K.J.'s frame, which has reached 6-4, 315 pounds, is better suited for football, but his father also suggested adopting that sport rather than following in his footsteps.

"I knew early on that it would be unfair to him," Karl said. "Ex-players' kids have a monumental uphill battle."

Equally unfair were the games of one-on-one basketball, which father and son last played two years ago. K.J. has never beaten his Hall of Fame dad, who refused to take it easy on his son. As K.J. got bigger, Karl would just foul him harder.

"Karl Sr. would never let him win," said K.J.'s mother, Kay Malone.

K.J., though, certainly has surpassed him on the gridiron, where his father never played. Despite having a love for football and the physique seemingly suited for it, Karl was forbidden from playing by his mother, who didn't want him to get hurt.

That allows Karl, who goes to every one of LSU's games and often attends practice, a way to live a bit vicariously through his son.

KJ Malone With Dad

"It is, but then I don't want to be that parent that is always talking to him about football … and trying to so-called 'live my football life' through him," Karl said. "I have to pump the brakes on myself sometimes."

Karl has refrained from meddling. LSU offensive line coach/running game coordinator Jeff Grimes calls Karl one of his all-time favorite parents, and the NBA's second all-time leading scorer assured him he would stay out of the way.

"He said to me: 'Coach, I'm going to tell you -- right up front before I say anything else -- I'm never going to talk to you about playing time. I'm never going to talk to you about how my son's doing on the field,'" Grimes said. "‘All I want to know is that he's behaving the right way, he's showing you respect as a coach and he's going to class.'"

The pupil shares his father's affinity for pumping iron. K.J. deadlifted 530 pounds three times, benched 365 and squatted 575 last year, and he was poised to exceed those numbers during the 2017 tests. It's a testament to his dedication in the weight room.

"It's my second home," K.J. said.

K.J. started lifting weights with his father in junior high, but keeping up with the burly power forward proved difficult.

"He used to murder me," K.J. said.

Karl, though, backed off in high school, letting the coaches at Cedar Creek High in Louisiana and then LSU guide him. At the latter K.J. has taken up boxing because it is not only great exercise, but also helps with his pass-blocking punch. The 54-year-old Karl still regularly works out, though he self-deprecatingly said that he can no longer hang with his 22-year-old son in the weight room.

"I kind of work out in the old-man section," Karl said. "I'm at an age now if I go out there and try and prove myself with them young whippersnappers, hell, I might pull something or tear something."

***

Wearing black fatigues and armed with a semi-automatic rifle, Gavin Long murdered three Baton Rouge policeman in July 2016. That tragedy deeply affected K.J., and after the 2016 season, he almost joined the U.S. Marshals.

"He's been thinking about that for a while," Kay said. "Ever since he was a little kid, he's always been fascinated with law enforcement, military, Coast Guard, anything that had to do with our country."

KJ Malone With Parents

Providing further reason to enlist was a trying 2016 season. Coach Les Miles was fired after a 2-2 start, and LSU finished with four losses, uncharacteristic for the SEC power.

For those with a college degree -- like K.J., who redshirted as a freshman and has graduated with a degree in interdisciplinary studies -- enrollment in the Marshals requires a year of police duty and passing a written test. America's oldest federal law enforcement agency, the U.S. Marshals Service protects officers of the court, transports prisoners and helps with the Witness Protection Program.

"The Marshal Service is something I always wanted to do," K.J. said.

The Malones were so convinced that K.J. was ready to move on from LSU and join the Marshals that Karl, who smokes a cigar before every game, irked the security staff by lighting up a victory stogie in the stands of Kyle Field during LSU's 54-39 victory at Texas A&M. He thought it was K.J.'s final regular-season football game.

"I love a good cigar," he said. "I know it's not legal, but I was gonna light up."

As K.J. weighed his future, he had several discussions with Grimes, including one at the coach's home after the 2016 season, about the meaningfulness of playing for LSU and how he can go into the Marshals any time while college football is fleeting.

Before LSU played Louisville in the Citrus Bowl, Ed Orgeron, who had been promoted from interim to full-time head coach, provided the final persuasive words. Orgeron approached K.J. in the weight room, telling him how much he needed his leadership and how much he wanted him back.

Now totally focused on the sport, K.J. says he will become a Marshal only once he finishes a football career that should lead to the NFL.

***

When Grimes arrived at LSU from Virginia Tech in 2014, he had two initial thoughts upon learning about his redshirt freshman lineman.

"Holy crap, Karl Malone is the dad to one of my players?" Grimes said. "He's got the right start as far as the gene pool."

KJ Malone With Dad

In addition to K.J., Karl and Kay have three daughters. Karl has three children from previous relationships, including Demetress Bell, who started 30 games at left tackle for the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles from 2009 to 2012.

K.J. may not have the basketball height of his 6-9 father, but he has his long arms, an attribute integral for offensive tackles to be able to engage rush ends and keep them at a distance during passing situations.

"He has an abnormal wingspan for a guy at his height," Grimes said.

Combine that with long legs, which allow him to cover a lot of ground while maintaining his balance when he's moving backward out of his stance, and quick feet, and he has the makings of an offensive tackle who can keep the talented SEC pass rushers at bay.

The LSU coaching staff knew it had a player capable of that after seeing K.J. hold his own during practice against outside linebacker Arden Key, a likely high NFL selection in the 2018 NFL Draft who had 12 sacks in 11 games in 2016.

As a result, K.J. not only earned his first start for LSU in 2016, but he also ended up starting all 12 games and playing a total of 646 snaps, which ranked third most on the 2016 squad. He recorded 56 knockdown blocks while allowing just three sacks all season.

K.J., who also has played guard and center for LSU, may move inside to guard at the next level unless the NFL team plays a zone scheme similar to the one the Denver Broncos successfully employed during their Terrell Davis-led Super Bowl run in the late 1990s.

KJ Malone With Dad

Though he is adept at both, K.J. prefers run blocking to pass blocking. And he's had the opportunity to open up holes for two of the best runners in college football -- Leonard Fournette, the fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, and Derrius Guice, who returns to the Tigers after leading the SEC in rushing yards last year with 1,387.

"It's unbelievable," K.J. said. "If we mess up, they correct us."

After blocking for great backs during the season, the linemen spent their offseason playing the aforementioned basketball games, "fatboy 7-on-7 football" or expounding on the greatness of Mr. Ronnie's Famous Hot Donuts. Kay called K.J. recently, and he and his linemates were watching Moana.

"They watch Disney movies," Kay said. "The (offensive) line is more like big teddy bears."

Just as the o-line is a tight-knit group, Karl and K.J. have a special bond. Father so lauds his son's work ethic that he often texts K.J., "You're my hero." And K.J. will reply: "You're my hero."

K.J. may have the chance to truly adopt a heroic role when he joins the U.S. Marshals. But that can wait. Right now his goal is to help LSU win football games, and Karl joked he may use the good luck charm from last year's win against A&M as a new way to toast that success.

"After every victory I'm going to have to light up," said Karl, sounding very much like a proud papa. "I might just light up the last two minutes, and if they kick me out, I'll just wait out there by the bus."

-- Follow Jeff Fedotin on Twitter @JFedotin.

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