Jackson Central-Merry linebacker Austin Parker stands at six feet tall and weighs 240 pounds – although he’s working right now on lowering that number to his playing weight, which is closer to 230 or 231.
“I’ve put on a few pounds in the weight room since last season ended,” Parker said.
He benches 310 pounds, power cleans 285 and runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash.
More important than those numbers are his 3.4 grade-point average and the high number he hopes to receive after taking the ACT this past week.
“I think I did well on it,” Parker said about the test he took Tuesday. “But it will take a few weeks before I find that out.”
One number that’s really important to him is the No. 7. It’s the jersey number he hopes to wear his senior season at JCM this fall after getting the OK from Cougar legend Al Wilson, who wore the No. 7 when he played in the early 1990s before it was retired a few years later.
“Mr. Al came back and spoke at our football banquet a few weeks ago, and he and I talked for a little while,” Parker said. “He had all these people around him wanting to talk to him and before he left, I said, ‘Mr. Al, can I wear the number 7 this year?’
“He told me he would be honored if I wore his number.”
Wilson was a highly-recruited player in his days at JCM before he signed with the University of Tennessee and was a team captain in 1998 when the Vols won the national championship. He went on to a career in the NFL and now resides in Atlanta with his family.
JCM head coach Orentheus Taylor confirmed Wilson’s blessing for Parker to wear the number.
“It says a lot about a young man when a player the caliber of Mr. Wilson is willing to let him bring his number out of retirement to wear it,” Taylor said. “Austin has a lot of potential, and we hope to see him live up to it this year.”
Taylor isn’t the only coach seeing that potential in Parker. Coaches from Tennessee, Ole Miss, Middle Tennessee State, Mississippi State, Memphis and Western Kentucky have all expressed interest in Parker playing for their program after this season.
He’s been on two visits so far – to Knoxville last fall for a game and to Memphis recently. He was set to go back to Knoxville this weekend before weather altered those plans.
“Right now my next visit is scheduled to be at Ole Miss for their spring game on April 11,” Parker said. “I may go somewhere else between now and then, but nothing’s scheduled yet.”
Parker has no inclination of where he wants to play his college ball yet, and no one has officially offered him.
He said he’s always been a fan of Georgia, and an offer from the Bulldogs would be hard to pass up. But he hasn’t heard from them yet.
“Yeah that would be great, but playing college football is playing college football,” Parker said. “It’s a dream, and I’ll appreciate the opportunity to do what I’ve dreamed about doing no matter where that opportunity is.”
Brandon Shields, 425-9754