Jackson Central-Merry linebacker Austin Parker’s stock has risen in college football recruiting circles in recent months.
After having quality camps and a prolific junior season in 2014, a number of NCAA FBS and FCS schools showed interest in his services.
Three Ohio Valley Conference teams showed the most tangible interest in the spring when Jacksonville State extended a scholarship offer to him and UT Martin and Austin Peay followed soon after.
“Talking to coaches and scouts from different schools has been an enjoyable experience,” Parker said. “To think these colleges think I’m good enough to play on their teams is a humbling thought.”
Another school humbled Parker this past weekend when Southern University in Louisiana made him an offer.
“I’ve still got to research them some, but I could see myself playing there, too,” Parker said. “I like my options right now.”
Parker attributes hard work for helping him have the opportunities he has. He said he’s worked at literally all hours of the night to get better.
“There have been times when I might be laying in bed thinking about football and thinking about what I need to do to get better,” Parker said. “And I’ll get up out of bed and go out in the backyard and do linebacker drills. And this might be at 1 a.m.
“We’ve got a big backyard, and it’s lighted up pretty good back there. So I’ll set some cones out and do some drills. I just try to stay away from my mom’s bedroom window so I don’t wake her up.”
Parker isn’t necessarily one that likes to be the center of attention. When JCM’s coaching staff let the players pick out their spots in the locker room, Parker picked the locker at the end of the row in a small hallway off to the side.
“I just like to be over here – kind of like a castaway,” Parker said smiling. “But when I come in to get ready for practice, I come in and get ready and try not to think about anything else.”
And there are plenty of other things Parker could think about when he’s preparing for practice. He could think about his college offers or doing what he needs to do to make himself better.
On the negative side, the Cougars have certainly had their share of adversities in Parker’s three years so far with the program. Coaching changes, the deaths of teammates or teammates’ loved ones, problems with facilities and a host of other challenges have held the Cougars back. But Parker said he chooses to not dwell too much on the good or the bad. Just the present.
“What’s here now is playing football and trying to get better,” Parker said. “That’s what I need to do. I can’t change the past, so if I think about it, I just try to learn from it.
“If I focus on now and do my best and improve as much as I can now, then the future will be taken care of.”
Parker was thrown into the situation of focusing on the present when he got his first start in varsity football. It was the final game of his freshman season, a playoff game at Camden.
“Jacob Chandler was a linebacker last year, and he played basketball at Madison,” Parker said. “He sprained his ankle that day, and [former JCM coach Martez Edwards] came in and looked at me and said, ‘You’re starting tonight. Get ready.’
“I was just like, ‘Wow. I guess I’d better get ready.’ So I did. Ever since, I’ve just tried to keep doing my best for me and for JCM football because we’ve all worked together, sweat together, bled together and been through a lot together. No one on this team wants to let anyone else down, and I definitely don’t.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9751
Height: 6 feet
Bench max: 305
Squat max: 425
Power clean max: 285