2012 Football: He's starting to feel like the old K.P.
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — There are still moments when Virginia tailback Kevin “K.P.” Parks impersonates a strange visitor from another planet who came to Earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men.
Take Virginia’s Blue-Orange spring game. Parks grabbed a pass from young quarterback Greyson Lambert and plowed over five of his teammates and buddies — well, hopefully, they’re still buddies — to score a TD.
“Yeah, that play kind of felt like the old me,” Parks said. “I saw the end zone, and I guess that’s a place I know well.”
Parks, you may recall, learned to know the end zone up-close-and-personal in a four-year varsity career at West Rowan that was the best there’s ever been in the county and is likely to be the best there ever will be.
Parks rushed for a N.C. state-record 10,895 yards and scored 158 touchdowns. He put up 55 100-yard games to set a national record and he topped 200 yards 24 times.
Given his staggering stats, plus Shrine Bowl and All-American Bowl MVP awards, it seemed inconceivable that Parks would redshirt his first season on campus at Virginia, but that’s what he did.
As tough as that 2010 redshirt year was for him, as tough as it was for him to watch his teammates grind out five wins, it was the right decision as far as the big picture.
Parks said all the right things at the time, even when he felt like crying, and now that he’s older and wiser, he appreciates the decision that was made. He didn’t waste a year of eligibility, and he hit the ground running in 2011. He was the No. 2 tailback as a redshirt freshman.
“It’s all good,” Parks said. “That redshirt year was definitely for the best.”
There may have been a better No. 2 tailback somewhere last fall, but there could not have been many. Parks produced 709 rushing yards on 153 carries for a solid average of 4.7 yards per attempt. He rushed for nine touchdowns, caught a scoring pass and broke the record for TDs by a Virginia freshman.
His season included some workhorse outings — 14 carries for 98 yards against UNC, 17 for 86 vs. Georgia Tech, and 21 for 78 against Duke.
Parks, who is listed at 5-foot-8, started last season at 195 pounds. He’ll enter his sophomore season at 200.
“The offseason has been just classes and workouts for me,” he said. “I did add a few pounds of muscle mass because it’s so hard to keep the weight on during the season. Coaches tell me a few more pounds might make the difference in not getting injured.”
An ankle injury slowed Parks last season and forced him to miss one game, but once he got well, he stayed healthy and productive.
Virginia was the ACC’s fourth-best rushing team, with Perry Jones, now a senior, leading the way with 915 yards. Clifton Richardson chipped in with 374 yards as the No. 3 man.
“We expect big things from Jones and Parks, and we are going to have multiple packages,” Virginia coach Mike London said at ACC media days. “Those two really complement each other nicely. They hang out all the time off the field as well so they have good chemistry together.”
Parks agrees that’s the case.
“I spend so much time with Perry watching film and working out together that it’s not like we’re competing against each other,” he said. “He’s really more of a brother than a teammate. We both wants what’s best for the team. We both want wins more than a certain number of carries or a certain number of touchdowns.”
While Parks doesn’t expect a role change from last year, he does expect to be more productive because of experience.
“I believe I did decent last year,” Parks said. “But I’m ready to up those numbers — and I can up those numbers.”
Virginia improved from five wins to eight in 2011, but there’s plenty of talk that the Cavaliers can’t keep moving forward.
“I know there are people saying last year was a fluke,” he said. “But as a team, we’ve got to believe that we can do even better.”
Parks has made a few believers. The “Bleacher Report” web site lists him as the 149th best player in college football, which is pretty high praise for a backup. The site praised Parks as a runner who hits the hole hard but still has enough wiggle to make people miss, and that’s an accurate description.
“No. 149? Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m up there anywhere near that high yet,” Park said with a chuckle.
Fans can judge for themselves soon enough. Virginia will visit twice. Parks and the Cavaliers are at Duke on Oct. 16 and at N.C. State on Nov. 3.
Jordan Honeycutt contributed to this story.