Pro Football: Parks signs contract to play in Germany
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — Last March, Kevin “K.P.” Parks was enthusiastic about being drafted by the new Major League Football organization, but a month later MLFB announced it would need an extra year before it would be ready to take the field.
“I was excited and ready, so that was another blow,” Parks said. “I lost the taste for a while.”
Coaching and advising youngsters helped him regain his zest for football, and Parks, who has been training hard the past six weeks, is ready to give it one more shot. On Tuesday, he signed a contract with the Cologne Crocodiles. When spring comes, he’ll be heading to compete in the German Football League.
In a statement, Crocodiles head coach Patrick Kopper gushed about the addition of Parks.
“We are happy to be able to convince a player like Kevin to join our club,” Kopper said. “He is incredibly maneuverable, and yet also physical. Kevin is an all-down running back. He catches everything that comes close to him and he can block. He will certainly help us in our first year in the GFL.”
The Crocodiles, who are fascinated by the “Little Hulk” nickname Parks earned at Virginia, are moving up from the second division to compete in the 16-team top tier of German football in 2017, so they’re recruiting American reinforcements.
The Crocodiles also announced the signing of 6-foot-5, 245-pound Stanford quarterback Mike Eubank, whose size, arm and mobility remind some people of Cam Newton.
Parks, a former West Rowan High and University of Virginia standout, works now at West Rowan Middle School as the ISS (In School Suspension) teacher. He helped Erich Epps coach a strong seventh-grade team and he’s also helped out with the West Rowan High team on the same field where he once set records as a running back.
“Those middle school kids will run through walls for you,” Parks said. “I’m not saying I’m all that, but some of them had heard the name ‘K.P.,’ and I like to think that helped motivate them.”
Parks’ daily message to his young charges included following their dreams and never giving up, and it struck him a few months ago that it was time to heed his own advice.
“My agent and I talked things over, and the biggest thing now is for me to show what I can do and get some new film out there,” Parks said. “We were open to just about any opportunity. Things were in the works for several weeks and we finally concluded a contract in Germany.”
That contract isn’t going to pay him a lot, but he’ll make a living and it’s going to be a pretty decent lifestyle. The team will take care of most of his expenses, including housing.
The best news is this is an established league that’s not going to suddenly fold or disappear. The league has been around 38 seasons. Games are played from April to October, with playoffs following that.
Cologne is located on the Rhine River in western Germany, not far from the borders with Belgium and Netherlands. There won’t be a language barrier for Parks as about half the German population can communicate in English.
Parks will have a chance to check out carnivals, cathedrals and castles on off days. There are going to be some new cultural experiences ahead of him (he’s discussed overseas football with former Salisbury High QB John Knox who had success in Sweden), but his focus is going to be on the football field.
“I’m excited about joining a team that won a lot of games, and I’m just looking to get my feet back in the door,” Parks said. “It’s going to be a good level of football with quite a few American players. Guys do get looked at in that league, and I’m hoping it will lead to something in the Canadian Football League or the NFL.”
From 2006-09 at West, Parks was the greatest offensive force in Rowan County history. His 10,915 career rushing yards and 3,794 rushing yards as a senior are state records. He scored 159 touchdowns, second in state history.
He carried the ball 1,370 times and averaged 8 yards per carry for four years. He was a large part of 30 straight wins and two 3A state championships.
Parks is about 5-foot-6 without shoes, so there always have been doubts about his size and those doubts have been accompanied by questions about his lack of sprinter’s speed.
What he does have is a lot of strength, a lot of explosiveness (39.5-inch vertical jump), great vision, a huge heart and a tireless work ethic. His low center of gravity makes it a challenge to tackle him. He can read blocks. He hates to lose. He has all the intangible stuff you can’t measure.
His career at Virginia wasn’t overwhelming, not by the standard he set at West Rowan, but it was strong. He played for only one winning team, but when he graduated, he ranked fifth in school history in rushing yards (3,219), sixth in touchdowns (33) and seventh in all-purpose yards (3,998). There was a day when he silenced 90,000 choppers at Florida State. He topped 1,000 yards as a junior. He caught 103 passes in his career.
There was a redshirt year and there were frustrating losses and injuries to deal with at Virginia, but he came through his college experience in good shape and with a degree.
Not being drafted by the NFL hurt and not even being invited to a post-draft camp was discouraging for someone with Parks’ track record, but he’s looking ahead, not back.
There were no calls — nothing, Parks said. “I took it hard, and it was absolutely one of the toughest times in my life. But after a while you realize that life goes on. You’ve got to keep going, and I have.”
Parks is elated for the success of his West classmate Chris Smith, who is in the NFL with the Jacksonville Jaguars, as well as for the rise of Javon Hargrave, the Pittsburgh Steelers rookie from North Rowan who scored a touchdown on Sunday.
His own pro success has proven elusive, but Parks, who has a 5-year-old daughter, Jada, is far from giving up.
“Timing is everything, and I still believe if I’m in the right place at the right time, I can get it done,” Parks said. “I love the game. I’ll keep fighting.”