Parker's tenacity will be missed by Cougars
By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on December 13, 2008 11:33 PM
A quiet, humble and polite young man, Goldsboro's A.J. Parker doesn't go out of his way to strike fear in the heart of anyone with his personality.
Put Parker in a football uniform and it's a completely different story. The senior linebacker and fullback finished the 2008 season with 86 solo tackles, 52 assists and averaged 9.9 stops per game.
He also had two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries.
For his efforts, Parker is the 2008 News-Argus All-Area Defensive Player-of-the-Year.
A relentless sideline-to-sideline tackler, Parker is a vocal leader who embraces the responsibility of relaying defensive play calls from the sidelines to his teammates on the field.
"Several years ago I didn't really understand what it meant to read an offense," said Parker. "We do play a lot of teams that run a similar offense to what we run and it helps me understand where guys are going to go with the ball.
"I call out all the defensive plays and tell the guys to watch the guards or to wait for the ball to move."
During the offseason, second-year Cougars head coach Eric Reid brought in Charles Lane and Robert Jones to oversee the defense. Lane and Jones' first order of duty was to get on the same page with Parker.
"From day one (Lane and Jones) went and found him and presented the system to him and told him what they wanted him to do," said Reid. "They told him what role he was playing in the system. He became a student of it and learned it, and carried it out ... making plays night in and night out."
Parker's ability to grasp the defense and translate it into play-making ability for four quarters every Friday night has made him an extension of the coaching staff on the field.
"When you can put as much trust in a player as I have in A.J. that means something special," said Reid. "A lot of times offensively he would tell us to run a certain play and we would run it. I trust his decision making and it's hard to replace a young man of his caliber.
"Whenever we're in a tight jam he's the type of guy that's going to make that play that's going to turn a game around."
A 1,000-yard rusher in Goldsboro's offense, Parker rarely saw the bench or had the opportunity to grab a water bottle. Staying on the field for every play helped Parker remain within the flow of the game.
"It's tiring at times," said Parker. "You just have to suck it up and play harder. But, it helps you stay in the rhythm of the game because if you go to the sidelines and take a couple of plays off you have to start over again."
Parker may be soft-spoken off the field, but his career will continue to speak clearly for itself long after he's gone.
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