The Gomez Files: Tim Parker Feature

Aug. 22, 2003

By Brian Gomez

PAYSON, Ariz. -- Imagine what it would be like if you had to do your job shortlyafter learning that the safety and well-being of one of your family members hadbeen compromised.

That's the situation Arizona State senior punter Tim Parker found himself inlast fall when his dad, Lawrence Lacroix, was sent to Iraq the morning of histeam's game at Southern California.

A resident of Chula Vista, Calif., Lacroix was supposed to be in Los Angeleson Nov. 16 to watch his son play. He instead flew overseas with several othermarines to begin working as a master gunnery sergeant for an unspecifiedperiod of time.

Meanwhile, Parker was left facing the daunting task of having to kick whenthe hole in his heart was about the size of the Olympic flame burning outsidethe Coliseum.

Parker made the most of the situation by coming through with a grittyperformance: six punts for an average of 48.7 yards, including two that landed insidethe 20-yard line and one that traveled a career-long 75 yards.

'It kind of shook me up a little bit, but I knew I had a responsibility to myteam,' said Parker, whose 49-year-old dad is eagerly waiting his April 1retirement after returning home last month.

While in Iraq, Lacroix helped facilitate the communication of artillery. Hisduties included lining up tanks and telling infantry to report to designatedlocations.

Lacroix didn't work in the front lines, but had something gone awry, he wouldhave been thrust into action. That resulted in more than a few sleeplessnights for Parker and his mother, Insun.

'Every time you watched TV, you found out about little accidents happeningand you heard of marines getting killed,' said Parker, who talked to his fatheronly once a week during his father's eight-month stint in Iraq. 'The mostfrustrating thing was not knowing where he was at. You would hear guys wereadvancing to other places and then you would hear guys were staying back. It wasjust kind of hard to figure out where he was going.'

Parker finished his junior season with an average of 42.7 yards per punt,ranking tops in the Pac-10 and 16th in the nation. The second-team All-Pac-10specialist stuck 27 punts inside the 20-yard line, while marking only 10touchbacks in 14 games.

This year, Parker has his sights set on posting even better numbers as hestrives to raise his stock heading into the 2004 NFL draft. He averaged 45.9yards on 10 punts Tuesday during ASU's first full-contact scrimmage, in additionto making three of five field goals with a long of 44 yards.

'I'm looking at last year as a good starting point, but I'm really looking totake off this year and elevate my game one more notch,' Parker said.

Although Parker doesn't plan on following in his father's footsteps, he'llalways remember that football is just a sport, not a matter of life and death.

'It has allowed me and all my teammates to come out here and enjoy what wedo,' Parker said. 'I look at my dad as more of my hero because of the fact thathe's going over to a place where a lot of people won't step in and won't wantto take on that kind of demand.'

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