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August 21, 2014

Former Jenks standout has legacy to carry on

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Jenks recruiting coordinator Carl Johnson was standing next to Jenks coach Allan Trimble and Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops on the sideline.

Stoops had just gotten back to OU a little earlier in that year after leaving Arizona where he was the head coach. It seemed like a regular day to Johnson at the time, but that would change.

It would become the kind of day that leaves an impression, the kind of day that becomes a story. It became a day that altered a life.

The three coaches were watching the Trojans go through drills on the practice field in spring 2012 and just talking. They were getting acquainted in Johnson's case and reacquainted in Trimble's.

The reason Stoops was on hand was no secret. The Trojan coaching staff thought its sophomore class was special. It was loaded with potential and promise -- two words that are as appealing as they are dangerous.

Still, the Jenks staff believed their eyes. The coaches believed in the discipline and ability they saw in their 2014 class, traits they thought Stoops as well as a myriad of other Division I coaches would come to acknowledge.

Then Stoops asked about a kid, a sophomore that that had caught his eye. He was impressive looking even without pads on.

He was already nearing 6-feet tall and his frame looked like it could carry next to 200 pounds with ease on a body that was fluid, agile and fast.

"His name is Steven Parker," Johnson told Stoops. "He's a sophomore safety. We think he's going to be a really good player for us down the road."

After hearing that, Stoops asked Johnson to hold on for just a second.

He left Johnson's side and introduced himself to Parker. That same day Parker found out he'd been offered a scholarship to play football at OU. At first, Parker thought the offer was a joke.

"I thought it was a sarcastic remark," he said. "When I found out he was serious, it was actually pretty cool."

Like Parker, his father needed some convincing that the offer was real. When Parker told his father, Steven Parker Sr., that Stoops offered him at practice that day, Parker Sr. couldn't believe it either.

"I told him he didn't know what he was talking about," Parker Sr. said.

It took a phone call from Trimble to convince Parker Sr. his son had in fact received his first scholarship offer -- the first of many.

In time, Parker blossomed into a full-fledge 6-foot-1, 197-pound ball hawk. He'd lead the Trojans to a state title as a senior and become the No. 1-ranked player in the state of Oklahoma for his recruiting class.

Still, you can't help but think Parker was going to find a way to play college football at the highest level. It's truly in his blood.

THE LEGACY

Charles Parker walked on to Bud Wilkinson's OU squad in 1955 back when public schools were just beginning to desegregate and four black players playing Sooner football qualified for news.

A graduate of Dunjee High in Oklahoma City, Parker was a stout 200-pound lineman then, though he never got a chance to prove his mettle as a college player. Injury put an end to his career before it really got started.

Still, Charles and three of his Dunjee ​classmates are credited with helping integrate a sport that is now mostly populated with blacks.

Shortly after those men became Sooners another black man joined them. His name is Prentice Gautt, and he became the first black man to earn a scholarship to play football at OU.

Charles' son didn't hear his father speak of what he did often, even after Parker Sr. earned his way onto Oklahoma State's football team in the late '70s. Parker has had to learn of his grandfather's trailblazing efforts through secondhand accounts. His grandfather died less than two years before he was born.

Parker Sr. made sure his son knew where he came from, especially after figuring out early just how athletically talented Parker was. As a child, Parker was crawling over his bed railing and sliding back down the railing before he could walk.

He began playing football at age 3 and started performing workouts with his father while most kids were still learning to catch, throw and run without falling over.

From football to baseball to basketball, Parker could always play. He played basketball and football through high school and only began to think of himself as a football player when it became obvious that his skill on a football field was going to pay for his college tuition.

"I felt like I wanted to go for basketball more than I did football, but once I started getting all the offers football became my sport," Parker said.

The talent, his innate gift, was the easy part. Parker Sr., a former Marine, made sure his son knew how to nurture his talent, how to work.

"I told him everybody that you know is chasing you," Parker Sr. said. "So until you start working out to better yourself they'll catch you. They'll catch you because of their hard work and their lack of."

Parker Sr. admits he's hard on his son; that he's sometimes a hard man to deal with. However, Parker believes his father's lessons of discipline and humility have helped get him to OU.

He learned structure from his parents. He learned respect for his parents. He learned what it takes to achieve his dreams from his parents.

He has reached one milestone in getting to Norman. Now he's about the business of reaching another: Playing meaningful snaps as a safety for the Sooners in 2014.

CARRY ON

From the moment Stoops offered Parker a scholarship, his recruitment hit a new gear. He started receiving handwritten letters from head coaches at blueblood programs and apple of many eyes.

Parker was heavily recruited by last year's national runner-up Auburn as well as Texas A&M, Alabama, USC and Arkansas. But he committed to OU on Jan. 17 because they remained committed to him.

"The reason I committed to Oklahoma is because they stayed on top of me for so long," Parker said. "I started seeing how important it was to them rather than it was to me. I felt like they kind of stuck with me every bit of the way."

He arrived on campus for the summer session intent on battling for the starting safety spot left void by former Sooner Gabe Lynn, though sophomores Hatari Byrd and Ahmad Thomas had a year's jump on him.

Parker wasn't bothered by that. He came to OU because he wanted to compete, because he craved the challenge.

He's made just one real mistake since stepping on campus. In late June, Parker, who isn't yet 21, was arrested on complaint of being publicly intoxicated.

Throughout the summer and through preseason camp, though, he's been one of a few rays of sunshine for the Sooners in a summer otherwise filled with clouds.

Stoops has said Parker has earned a shot early this season to try to show he belongs in the OU secondary. He's earned the opportunity to carry on his grandfather's legacy.



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