Sun Devils' Parker Starts The New Season
By Brian Price
"A player who is voted captain by his peers after only starting five games in five years? That's respect," ASU associate athletic director of communications, Mark Brand, says with admiration.
He's talking about Arizona State senior linebacker Colin Parker.
For the past five seasons at ASU, his tireless work ethic has kept him relevant in head coach Dennis Erickson's system. However, a string of bad luck and injuries has sidelined him for much of his playing career.
With linebacker Brandon Magee suffering a season-ending Achilles tear, Parker will be getting the nod as starting linebacker in the season opener against UC Irvine on Sept. 1.
Thirty players, including Parker, on the 2010-2011 roster will be representing the Sun Devils for the last time in their collegiate careers. The timing is right for Parker to finish his career strong, captain the Sun Devils and help end things on a positive note for the team.
"For the guys who have been here for four or five years it's really important for us to leave with a legacy and have a hand in turning this program around for years to come," Parker says.
When he first came to Tempe, Erickson was also a newcomer. That 2007 squad went 10-3, but struggled in the subsequent three seasons going 5-7, 4-8 and, last year, 6-6.
However, Parker believes change is on the horizon and points to a new sentiment in this year's training camp that was not present in past seasons.
"The biggest thing I've noticed this year, compared to previous years, is the balance in practice between the offense and the defense," observes Parker. "The last two years we pretty much dominated the offense. Now our offense has been able to go back and forth with us. We'll win some days and they'll win some days, which is what we want."
An improved offense in practice will translate to wins on Saturdays. ASU went .500 last season and didn't make a bowl game. However, they began establishing a foundation for success by finding ways to hang with the top programs in the nation.
Against Oregon, ASU was up by two scores late into the second, but ran out of gas against the Ducks' potent second half offense, eventually losing 31-42. ASU also dropped games to No. 11 Wisconsin, No. 6 Stanford and USC, but by only a combined six points.
"Those games gave us confidence that we can play with anybody in the country, but at the same time they were still losses. We need to learn from those games, make improvements and finish games for the win," explains Parker. "With a senior-heavy group we're looking to accomplish our goals."
The goals, as a team, are making (and winning) a bowl game in the Erickson era. The Sun Devils haven't been to a bowl game since 2007 and haven't won one since 2005.
Parker wants to contribute to a defense that, last season, led the Pac-10 in rushing defense, allowing only 120 yards per game and that was a top-20 defense in forcing opponents into three-and-out possessions.
"My goal is to get 100 tackles this season," says Parker, who recorded 10 tackles against Washington in a 24-14 win on the road last year. "If we go to a bowl game or the Pac-12 championship game, that could potentially be 14 games and I get about eight tackles a game--that's doable."
In order to accomplish these objectives the captain is a firm believer in continuing to lead by example. "I'm not the most athletic guy on defense, but I can always be the most prepared with a extra film work, studying the playbook, and constant hard work," he says. "That's what I try to bring to the table for everybody to see."
These are all principles that Parker's father, ASU legend corner back and NFL veteran Anthony Parker, encouraged in his son from a young age.
"My father helped instill the benefits of hard work and ultimately showed me the way," Colin says.
Anthony Parker did this by offering unique defensive lessons but never forced the game on his son.
"I allowed Colin to come to me," says Anthony. "He had seen me play, been in the locker room and even saw me get juked by Barry Sanders."
The result? Parker naturally gravitated towards the game and developed a healthy passion and understanding for football just like his father.
"He coached me in seventh and eighth grade and taught me all about cover-3 and cover-2 and things that most kids wouldn't learn until college, so that gave me a great jump start [from a technical standpoint] on defense," notes Parker.
That jump-start also helped lead Parker down a familiar road.
"It was only natural he follow in my footsteps and attend ASU. I think that's any father's dream come true," says the elder Parker.
As for life after ASU, Parker continues to remain goal-oriented and academically motivated.
"If the opportunity comes I'd love to play at the next level, but if not I'm planning on going into medical supplies sales," the marketing major explains. "My knee surgeries had exposed me to field of medicine and it interested me. However, the classes were a little bit harder [and balancing a schedule was tough] playing D-1 football. Through the years, I've met people in the field and it feels like it could be a good fit."
Parker has two honorable mention Academic All-Pac-10 honors under his belt, but he's still hungry for more.
"Academics have always been a big part of what I do, but it's important for me to gain recognition this season for what I accomplish on the field."
Starting September 1 he'll have that chance when the Sun Devils take on UC Davis.
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