One of the biggest obstacles Parker has had to overcome in his playing career has been staying healthy. Dating back to last two years of high school Parker has had a difficult time avoiding injury. Fortunately, this year the junior has been able to stay about as healthy as he could have hoped and it’s making a big difference for the linebacker.
“I’m feeling good,” Parker admitted. “A lot of my injuries are in the past. I’ve worked hard to overcome them and I’ve felt good all season.”
Parker and the Sun Devils endured yet another spirit crushing defeat at the hands of USC in Los Angeles last Saturday. After taking the early lead, ASU fell behind only to come storming back in the second half to reclaim the lead deep in the fourth quarter. Much as the rest of the season has unfolded to date, the Sun Devils couldn’t quite get the plays they needed to topple another favored foe and fell, 34-33.
“It was definitely tough,” Parker said about the loss to USC. “We felt the whole game we had a good chance to make some plays and win the game but it just came down to some opportunities at the end and we just didn’t make the plays we needed to.”
“We definitely feel like we squandered some opportunities and our record could be a lot better if we would have made some plays along the way. But we are where we’re at and we can only move forward.”
The same levelheaded thinking is what has Parker in the starting line up today. The linebacker is a model of consistency. He never seems to get too up or down and always seems to be in the right place on the field positionally. While ramping up his physical game in the offseason was a priority, Parker attributes much of his success to work put off the field.
“A lot of it was physical stuff,” Parker stated. “I worked real hard in the offseason to get my legs stronger and faster. The other side of it is that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into the film room working on mental preparation and it has helped me a lot.”
In a group that boasts names like Vontaze Burfict, Brandon Magee, Gerald Munns, and more, it’s difficult for any linebacker to get as much playing time as they’d like. However, the glut of talent at the position hasn’t at all affected the chemistry and Parker believes there is a strong sense of trust amongst his fellow linebackers.
“With our 1’s and 2’s we can rotate anyone in with pretty much anyone else and we know where everyone is going to be and we’re all pretty solid assignment wise,” Parker commented. “We know that whoever is in there is going to make plays.”
Parker and the rest of the defense are aware of the challenge that awaits them this Saturday. Stanford has proven themselves as one of the top teams in the country and could be vying for a spot in the Rose Bowl assuming Oregon remains undefeated. The Cardinal boast an offensively explosive roster and are well coached by their leader Jim Harbaugh.
Quarterback Andrew Luck, running back Stepfan Taylor and wide receiver Chris Owusu are three players that ASU has to keep in check if they want to pull the upset.
“(Luck) is a great quarterback,” parker noted. “He’s definitely one of the better quarterbacks in the country and we have to be prepared for him or else he can do some damage.
“(Taylor) is a good back. The good thing is we’ve had the opportunity to play a lot of good backs this year and we feel like we’re ready for anyone. I think Owusu did some damage against us last year, if I can remember correctly. But it’s the same thing, as long as we come in prepared we feel like we have a good chance to get the win.”
Regardless of how this Saturday’s contest with Stanford turns out, Parker has proven himself a valuable asset to the Sun Devils and is thoroughly enjoying his time donning the maroon and gold just like his dad Anthony Parker did in the 80’s.
“It’s been great,” Parker exclaimed. “ASU was always my favorite team growing up. I used to come to a lot of spring games and games in the fall when I was a little kid. It’s just a dream come true getting to play here as a college student.”