ACC Football: K.P. or Kevin, Parks is still a star

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2011

By David Shaw
CHAPEL HILL — For the record, he’s Kevin Parks now.
The artist formerly known as K.P. — the same jackrabbit who turned the state’s prep record book into his autobiography wearing West Rowan powder blue — has skipped all the ugly growing pains and blossomed into something beautiful at the University of Virginia.
“I’m still K.P. to a lot of people,” he said Saturday night, shortly after host North Carolina stumped the Cavs 28-17. “K.P. hasn’t gone anywhere. This conference, they just don’t know me that well. I don’t talk to media that much like I did back home.”
Parks is officially listed by his given name in all UVA and ACC media references. A redshirt-freshman tailback for the 2-1 Cavs, he’s in the process of making a seamless transition to Division I college football. Whatever they call him, Parks seems to have “Future Star” stamped on his forehead.
“Kevin’s future is bright. It’s all ahead of him,” second-year Virginia coach Mike London said. “He truly is a playmaker for us.”
Parks burst onto the scene by scoring three touchdowns and rushing for 114 yards in his Sept. 3 debut against William & Mary. His reward was instant recognition and the ACC’s Rookie-of-the Week award.
“It was nice,” he said, modestly adding: “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates throwing blocks all day for me. That’s really something you have to share.”
Last weekend Parks made two more end-zone appearances in a victory at Indiana, shooting him to the top line on the conference scoring chart. He turned yesterday’s homecoming into a grudge match, rushing for 98 yards on 14 carries and snagging a fourth-quarter pass for a 15-yard pickup. Included was a season-best 34-yard run into UNC territory in the second quarter.
“Yeah, all this week I used that as motivation,” said Parks, who wasn’t recruited by North Carolina after four magnificent seasons in Mount Ulla. “It was in my head that ‘they didn’t want you.’ I used it, I put it on my shoulders and ran with it.”
The accepted explanation was that Parks, now a chisled 5-foot-8 and 195 pounds, was too small to play in the rugged ACC.
“You know what?” said 6-6 teammate Morgan Moses, UVA’s starting right tackle. “With him being so small, people don’t think of him as a power runner. But he is. He’s a bruiser, stays low to the ground. As soon as K.P. hits that hole, he’s hard to find out there.”
Parks says he’s adjusting to life as a student-athlete — finally learning the value of time management. He and Moses — 2010 roomates in Charlottesville — are affectionately known as Shrek and Donkey around campus.
“That’s something Coach London came up with when I first got here,” Parks said. “You know, Mo is so big and I was so small. It just fit. We got used to it.”
What he’ll never get used to is losing. Saturday’s setback marked the first time Parks had been on the losing side of the handshake line since West Rowan dropped its 2008 season-opener to Davie County.
“At this level it’s all about getting W’s,” he said with more than a hint of disappointment. “It’s a bitter taste for now, but I’ll get that out of my mouth tomorrow.”
He’ll do that back on campus. Parks’ night ended with a brief meet-and-greet with the 40 family members and friends who were waiting for him postgame near the team buses.
“I’m very lucky,” he said, flashing his trademark smile. “All these people came to see me play.”
This much is certain: fame as a D-I running back didn’t happen overnight for Kevin Parks. It’s taken a whole three games.
No matter what you call him.