Joe Parker understands his pursuit of making it in the NFL is not without challenges.
The former star receiver who helped Cherry Creek High win a state title for coach Dave Logan in 2014 is on the smallish side at a tick below 5-foot-10, 184 pounds. He played his final two college seasons at a subdivision program, Tennessee-Chattanooga, after transferring from the University of Wyoming.
None of this means Parker is not NFL worthy. Or does anyone need a quick reminder on the story of Julian Edelman, the defending Super Bowl MVP?
“I’ve been lucky,’’ Parker said in an interview with 9NEWS. “A lot of guys have had a lot of success that look like me. There’s a lot of guys my height in the NFL that are doing really well right now. I think this is the right time for me because I do think I bring a lot of things to the table. They’ve paved the way and given an opportunity to guys like me who coming up now.’’
Joe Parker IV has been back with his parents (Joe III and Ismay) at his Castle Rock home this offseason, where he finds inspiration every day. His older sister Kyrzia was born with arthrogryposis, a congenital curvature of the joints condition that has left her in a wheelchair since she was a toddler.
“Growing up with her and seeing her outlook on life and how successful she’s been with what she’s given and what she’s had, it kind of humbles you,’’ said Parker, who had 74 catches combined his past two seasons with Tennessee-Chattanooga. “When you think, ‘Man, I’m tired today, I don’t want to wake up and go.’ It gives you a reason to push a little farther, push a little harder. And really be thankful for the things you have.’’
Parker has trained throughout his life at the Landow Performance Center, where he has hooked up with the likes of Christian McCaffrey, Phillip Lindsay, Austin Eckler and, this offseason, with a quarterback named Paxton Lynch.
Parker has regularly run routes and caught passes the past six months from Lynch, the former first-round draft pick of the Broncos who is now with the Seattle Seahawks. Two former notable receivers – Broncos great Rod Smith and Colorado State’s Joe Hansley – have worked with Parker privately.
“They’ve been helping me through tons of stuff on the field, different ways to think,’’ Parker said. “I’ve also been using my secret weapon.’’
That would be his mom, a body restoration specialist. Parker has also been working with Dr. Jeff McWhorter at the NeuraPerformance Brain Center, where renowned chiropractor Dr. Shawn Caldwell is the clinic director.
“He specializes in brain performance, speeding up reaction speed, fixing your blind spots, that kind of stuff,’’ Parker said.
By now it should be obvious this is a serious, dedicated athlete who bypasses nothing when it comes to improving performance as gets ready for the professional level.
“You got to get every edge you can,’’ he said.
Parker is realistic about his chances. He understands he won’t receive any calls from NFL teams this weekend until Saturday, Day 3 of the draft. Which means anywhere from the final rounds to undrafted free agent. Two other local receivers, Northern Colorado’s Alex Wesley and Colorado School of Mines’ Brody Oliver, are in similar situations.
“The biggest thing I’ve got through talking to a lot of guys who have been through this process is you’ve got to control what you can control,’’ Parker said. “That’s how hard you work every day. You’re mindset when you wake up. That’s all you’ve really got because you have no idea what’s going to happen. I feel like these teams don’t really know what’s going to happen when it comes down to it. You don’t know who’s going to pick you, when, where, why. So you’ve got to take your opportunity and run with it once it’s handed to you.’’
As he readies to catch on in the NFL, the slot with the ability to return – he never dropped a punt or kickoff at Tennessee-Chattanooga -- is where Parker’s opportunity lies.
“For me, height and size doesn’t really play a factor,’’ he said. “It’s all about technique and skill and the toolbox you have to play receiver inside and outside. But definitely my bread and butter is going to be on the inside playing slot.’’
Besides Smith and Hansley, Parker’s local training began at Cherry Creek.
“That was the start of it,’’ he said. “I had an incredible receivers coach there, Myron Jefferson (who played at Arkansas-Pine Bluff). He is the one who really molded me with coach Logan. He’s the one that had me thinking about receiver as an art form and different ways to run routes, being deceptive and all those kinds of things. So I was really lucky to have those guys as coaches in high school because it put me way ahead of the curve when I got to curve.’’
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