Parks reflects on banner year
K.P. Parks had an uneventful holiday break in Salisbury with his relatives.
There were trips to Christos for chicken wings with former teammate Chris Smith and like everyone else around, went to the Moir Christmas Classic to see brother Devin play for West Rowan.
Not that he doesn’t enjoy the family time, but a lot of college football players were playing in bowl games the last couple of weeks. Parks, Virginia’s starting running back this year, was not. UVA dropped their last nine games and went winless in the ACC.
It was no fault of his though. The redshirt junior and West graduate led the Cavaliers in rushing with 1,031 yards in 2013. Parks, currently eighth all-time at the school with 2,472 career rushing yards made the All-ACC second team. There were six 100-yard games for Parks, who finally was able to produce at the level he did in Mt. Ulla not so long ago.
So it makes sense that Parks, the little guy with the big dreams, watched the BCS National Championship game Monday night not in awe of Jameis Winston but with aspirations that he could be on a stage that grand one day.
“My mentality is why couldn’t it be us,” Parks said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Hopefully the 2-10 [record] is stuck in the head of our guys and we use it as motivation.”
Maybe he’s got a point. Auburn fell Florida State Monday, but played UVA in the Chick-fil-a Bowl in 2011. That was Parks’ freshman year and he made an impact as the backup to Perry Jones. Since then the Cavs have gone through personnel and coaching changes while suffering through a pair of losing seasons, 2-10 last year and 4-8 in 2012. Last week, UVA safeties coach Anthony Poindexter and defensive line coach Vincent Brown left to join UCONN’s staff.
Parks feels like success isn’t that far off.
“We feel like we left a lot of wins out there on the field,” Parks said. “Hopefully that 2-10 record is stuck in our heads. We want to change that.”
The heat will be on fifth-year coach Mike London to produce wins. Parks said he’ll do what’s necessary to aid that.
“If I have to run the ball, block, catch out of the backfield, whatever,” he said. “I’ll do it. What I did this year doesn’t matter anymore.”
Parks will be a fifth-year senior and likely the top option at running back again. UCLA comes to Charlottesville to open the season and the Hoos travel to BYU this year. Parks sealed a win against BYU this year with a 13-yard touchdown run in the final minutes. The Cavs’ other win featured a career-high 135 yards on the ground from Parks.
He can still walk around town here and get recognized and that’s reassuring for Parks, who’s dynamic as ever but has changed since winning three state championships in Mt. Ulla. There are joys off the field as Parks has a 3-year old daughter. Jada Parks changed his perspective and brought him into fatherhood. Parks now juggles his duties as a parent with football and school.
“Having a child young turned out to be a blessing,” Parks said. “It changed my attitude about the world and upped my maturity.”
Smith, a teammate and still close friend, just finished his senior year at Arkansas and trained with Parks throughout the last few weeks.
“We grew up together so I’m very happy for him,” Parks said. “I never had a doubt in my mind he could be a draft pick.”
Just like they did in high school, four years go by fast. Not long ago Parks, a anthropology major, says he’ll graduate this fall. A degree from prestigious UVA carries a lot of weight He’s not fazed by the uncertainty that the real world brings should football not work out. But he’s not giving up on his dream either. Parks points to guys like Danny Woodhead, Darren Sproles and Gio Bernard who are about his size and having successful pro careers.
“It’s been hitting me a little,” said Parks of his impending graduation. “I’m kind of in the middle. I don’t know what I want to do but I need to figure it out.”