NC A&T's Parker working toward NFL dream
(STATS) - Brandon Parker has always gotten a thrill out of breaking stuff down to get a closer look at how he can make it better.
It's what led the North Carolina A&T incoming senior to become an electrical engineering major. It's also at the root of why he continues to strive for improvement on the field after earning back-to-back MEAC offensive lineman of the year honors and being named to the STATS FCS All-America first-team last season.
"I'm a perfectionist," said Parker, "so even though something I do might look good on film or no matter how many accolades I've won, I still want to make it better and I'm never really satisfied."
That attention to detail has attracted NFL scouts, and Parker is already listed on several websites as a prospect to watch in the upcoming season. The 6-foot-6, 300-pound bulldozer is rated 23rd out of 128 offensive tackle prospects, according to nfldraftscout.com, after helping pave the way for an Aggies offense that paced the MEAC with 203.8 rushing yards per game and ranked 11th nationally with 35.2 points per game.
With Parker leading the way up front, North Carolina A&T also ranked 11th in the country with just 1.08 sacks allowed per game.
Aggies offensive line coach Ron Mattes knows a thing or two about what it takes for a lineman to get to the NFL. He had an eight-year career that included stints with the Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts. He's also coached and mentored seven players that went on to play in the league.
Mattes describes Parker as "a great leader, an all-American kid" and "the kind of guy who'd want dating your daughter." But what's perhaps most impressive is that Parker combines that character with the measurables and skill set scouts are looking for on the field.
"He's got the size, strength and speed," Mattes insisted. "And it only takes one team to like you."
Because of his determination to reach the pros, football has become something of a full-time job for Parker. He and what he estimates is more than 40 other players have decided to stay close to campus for most of the summer and work on their craft.
Parker says his focus is on getting faster and more explosive out of his stance. As such, his daily regimen has been comprised mostly of hooks - a grueling workout consisting of several 200-meter sprints - resistance-band work and playing basketball.
The non-stop offseason work certainly isn't glamorous, and battling opponents in the trenches during the season can be a thankless grind that often gets quarterbacks, running backs and receivers all the praise. Still, Parker enjoys the aspects of being a lineman that aren't found at any other position.
"The thing (I like) has to be the pancake (blocks) and when you know your block has sprung an extra yard or a first down," said Parker, who led the Aggies with 48 pancake/knockdown blocks last season. "Also, the offensive line is a brotherhood. We all have to be in sync. When one guy misses a block, the whole line looks bad. So we try to do a lot of things together."
Parker said it has helped him to have a father, Curtis, who played offensive line for North Carolina from 1989-93 before becoming a high school coach. His mother, Regina, was a prep hoops star in Winston-Salem and his sister, Jasmine, played basketball at North Carolina A&T.
"It's in the genes," he joked.
While the NFL may be in the back of his mind, Parker's immediate concern is how to help the Aggies build on their success after winning nine games and a MEAC title before falling to Richmond in their first playoff appearance in 13 years. Though the team welcomes back most of its offense, North Carolina A&T has had to move on without a big piece in Chicago Bears fourth-round pick Tarik Cohen - the conference's all-time leading rusher.
"We have the same desire to be great," Parker said. "(With all the) kids we have still here working to get better, that shows a lot of dedication. We just have to polish our skills and get the rust off by the time we start up again."
If Parker has his say, that work won't stop until it's perfect.