Chargers TE Donald Parham Jr. Is Ready for a Bigger Role in the Offense
The Chargers have a history of developing tight ends. They have featured tight ends like Hall of Famer Kellen Winslow Sr., future yellow jacket Antonio Gates, and Hunter Henry, a current player. They may have just found their latest big-time tight end weapon.
This weapon stands at 6'8 and has been a game-changer for the Bolts so far this season. Donald Parham walked onto the field for the first time on the third drive of their week four game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He lined up far left; quarterback Justin Herbert hiked the ball and threw it up to his tight end, who came down for his first career catch and touchdown.
"He started playing for us and scored a big touchdown against Tampa Bay," said offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. "Then had this one last week down the same. So, he's continuing to improve every week. We like his progress. And we got to continue his progress going forward."
He followed it up in week 7 when Herbert dropped back and found a streaking Parham for the 22-yard touchdown. He now has two catches on the season for 41 yards and two touchdowns.
The relationship between Herbert and Parham is growing.
"He's definitely helping me in terms of becoming a better route runner putting the ball where it needs to be," explained Parham. "And making sure that I'm set in terms of the whole offense."
The young tight end impressed the quarterback ever since they began practicing together in training camp.
"He's a rare breed," explained Herbert. "Being able to move as well as he does at that height is pretty incredible. So, anytime we get him out there, he poses a threat and we kind of saw that in fall camp. We marched him out there, and he made some big plays, and so we kind of knew going on that we're going to have a special guy here, and he's done a great job so far."
The Chargers have a good tight end group lead by Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Stephen Anderson, and Parham. Henry is an all-around tight end who started out by being a good pass catcher then improved his blocking. Parham has learned a lot from the veteran tight end.
"He's always instilled in me and Stephen (Anderson) and Virg (Green), just making sure that we're learning the techniques and making sure that we're always making strides forward in terms of blocking," said Parham. "Making sure that we're always working hard at that side of the game as well."
Blocking is crucial to the tight end position. That is an area Parham wants to improve.
"It definitely is still the importance of it in terms of my career and making sure that I'm taking strides forward to become a better blocker," said Parham. "Get my name out there as an all-around tight end. So, this program has definitely helped me out."
Parham came out of Stetson University; it is in DeLand, Florida. Interestingly enough, two NFL players came from Stetson, Parham, and Donald Payne, who is a linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. Stetson is known more for their baseball program, but Parham knew he could play in his second year.
"I'm making a pretty good amount of plays and doing well, so I just kind of made it a thing in my head," said Parham. "I want to be become that next big thing."
In 2019, he went undrafted and bounced around between the Detroit Lions and the Washington Football Team. He then joined the Dallas Renegades and XFL team.
It was a perfect fit for a player who was trying to go from Division 1 FCS to making it in the NFL.
"It was always a question of 'am I ready for this kind of high-speed thing?'" said Parham. "That league, it was a big step from where I came from, you know, Stetson University. So, it was definitely a good experience for me."
Parham was able to learn a lot from head coach Bob Stoops, who is one of the best college football coaches in the last two decades, and offensive coordinator Hal Mumme, who is one of the innovators of the "Air Raid Offense."
"Definitely helped me out in terms of coverages making sure that I am identifying coverages and playing off of them," Parham said. "Making sure that I'm also winning the one on one battles. Basically, overall, playing fast and catching the football with those guys."
This helped Parham understand how to fit in the Chargers offense.
He now has a chance to get more playing time. Second-string tight end Virgil Green is out for a while with a sprained ankle. This could be a chance for Parham to move up the tight end totem pole, especially with his unique height and speed.
"It was very unfortunate," explained Parham. "But, I'm definitely eager to step in that role."