Friday Night Hero: West Rowan’s K.P. Parks

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 14, 2009

By Bret Strelow
MOUNT ULLA ó K.P. Parks’ record-breaking performance caught the attention of complete strangers and noteworthy coaches.
Parks rushed for 356 yards ó the best single-game effort in county history ó during West Rowan’s 69-14 victory against Carson on Friday night.
Fans recognized Parks and other members of a West Rowan contingent that attended the Carolina Panthers’ home win against the Washington Redskins on Sunday afternoon. Parks had a phone conversation with University of Virginia head coach Al Groh and running backs coach Wayne Lineburg on Sunday night.
Parks committed to Virginia in February, and the Cavaliers rushed for 231 yards as a team in a 47-7 victory over Indiana on Saturday.
“(Groh) told me, ‘I thought we were doing good Saturday; we have to catch up to you,’ ” Parks said. “I thought it was a good joke.”
Parks had a ticket to see an NFL game for the first time because West Rowan quarterback B.J. Sherrill and receiver Jon Crucitti were invited to participate in the Harris Teeter High School Football Challenge at halftime.
West coach Scott Young, his son Bryant, Parks, Sherrill and Crucitti were allowed to walk on the Bank of America Stadium field during pregame warmups, and they were treated like celebrities throughout the afternoon.
“I didn’t even know who the fans are, and they’re calling my name,” Parks said. “They’re saying, ‘K.P., good job Friday night,’ and ‘Coach Young!’ and ‘Give me some high-fives.’
“It was so fun getting to see NFL players warm up and see how big they are. Got a whole lot of work to do if you want to make it to that level.”
A stellar prep career has made Parks a highly touted college prospect, but his first priority is leading West Rowan to a second consecutive state championship.
He has 1,908 yards and 25 touchdowns this season for the top-ranked Falcons, who are 8-0 heading into their home game against Statesville on Friday. With 9,029 career yards, Parks has passed T.A. McLendon (9,004) for second place in state history.
The Falcons have three regular-season contests remaining and a playoff run would add a maximum of five games to their schedule, so Toney Baker’s first-place mark of 10,241 yards is within reach.
“I don’t worry about it,” said Parks, who’s averaging 238.5 yards per game this season. “Keep playing and see what happens, that’s the main thing. As long as I get a championship again, I’m fine. That’d be my career: two championships. As far as the records and stuff, it is what it is.”
Entering this season, the N.C. record book listed 41 rushing performances of more than 356 yards. Enloe’s Greg Williams ranks first with a 484-yard effort in 2005, and the 462 yards Fuquay-Varina’s Cory Hunter posted in mid-September haven’t been added to the list.
Parks already ranks first in state history with 47 career 100-yard games and 1,173 career carries.
He has eclipsed 30 attempts twice this season, but West’s coaches take steps to limit his workload in routs. He’s sat out roughly six of a possible 32 quarters, meaning he’s played what amounts to a little more than 61/2 games. He’s averaging close to 290 yards every four quarters.
Leg workouts such as squats (he maxed out at 485 pounds last summer) and hang cleans (he can lift 285 pounds) have enhanced his strength and durability.
“He never misses a workout or an opportunity to make himself better,” running backs coach Jeff Chapman said. “In addition to his physical gifts, he never takes a play off, never has a bad practice and, to this day, he still wants to get better.
“This year he has taken more interest in learning about defenses and what their particular thinking is. In addition to doing everything he can to help us win, he is already thinking about things that will help him in the future.”
Parks said he’s happy with his commitment to Virginia, which struggled with a freshly implemented spread offense earlier this season.
An 0-3 start led to speculation about Groh’s job security, and the Cavaliers switched back to a more traditional attack during an off week. A win against North Carolina preceded the home win against Indiana.
“Once I make a commitment to it, that’s what I’m going to do,” Parks said. “I don’t think there’s any pulling back. They showed me so much love, and I feel like I need to show them my commitment.”
Many teachers at West Rowan are fans of North Carolina, which didn’t offer Parks a scholarship. The Cavs’ victory in Chapel Hill gave him some bragging rights at school.
Parks, who traveled to Charlottesville for a loss to TCU on Sept. 12, said he loves Virginia’s campus.
“When I first went up there, I felt a whole bunch of good vibes from it,” Parks said. “You can get a great degree there, and it felt like a good place for me. I feel like I can better myself there.”