Steven Parker II will make it three generations of Parkers to play Division I football
With every play made in the secondary, every catch on offense, ESPN 300 athlete Steven Parker II (Jenks, Okla./Jenks) does it for his surname.
So when Parker takes the field next week as undefeated Jenks plays Tulsa (Okla.) Union for the Class 6A state championship, he will do so with a name that holds considerable weight in his home state.
Parker's father, Steven, played at Oklahoma State, and his grandfather, Charles, helped break the color barrier at Oklahoma. And as Parker, the nation's No. 200 player, prepares for life as a college football player, it's now his turn to write a chapter in the family history book.
"They've already left their legacies and hung up their cleats. I'm the last Parker playing," he said. "I feel like every time I step on the field, I'm playing for them. I'm trying to keep the name out there and make sure I'm keeping the tradition alive."
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Charles Parker helped reshape Oklahoma football by becoming one of the first black players to walk on at Oklahoma in September 1955.
The days when Parker needs motivation to push through practice, finish a workout or game, he's reminded of his late grandfather and the prejudice he fought through.[+] EnlargeBob Przybylo/ESPNSteven Parker II could follow in the footsteps of his father at Oklahoma State or his grandfather at Oklahoma.
"He worked his butt off to get to OU," Parker said. "I guess that's where I get his hard work from. He had to do everything he could just to play at that level. I kind of get goose bumps thinking about it."
Charles Parker, George Farmer and Sylvester Norwood all lived in Oklahoma City's Dunjee School District. Collectively, they were called the "Dunjee Trio." Charles, who was around 6-foot and 200 pounds, didn't get a chance to fully showcase his skills for the Sooners, as he suffered a major concussion before the start of the season. He ultimately transferred to Central State College, now known as the University of Central Oklahoma, in Edmond, Okla.
Charles and his fellow walk-ons helped open the door for Prentice Gautt, who eventually became Oklahoma's first African-American player on scholarship.
"During the 50th anniversary of those guys, we saw a biography on each individual player," the elder Steven Parker said. "The guys interviewed would talk about my father and say he was the only one who could have really played in the conference if they allowed him to get on the field.
"He made steps in the right direction."
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Today, Steven watches his son go through the recruiting process, entertaining more than a dozen offers. The elder Parker knows the game, having played safety for Oklahoma State in 1978 and 1979. Parker left the Cowboys in 1980 and joined the Marines.
"I've heard some pretty good stories about him," Parker said of his father. "He was probably the most physical guy on the team, semi-crazy even. He loved to hit. That was his thing -- he loved to lay someone out."
The younger Parker will most likely play safety in college, but he's capable of lining up at cornerback or wide receiver as well. He has also excelled at basketball and track.
Steven knew his son was a special athlete at an early age. As an infant, Parker would pull himself over his baby bed rails and slide down without hurting himself. The stunts occurred before he could walk.
"I thought that was the craziest thing I'd ever seen," Steven said. "My wife and I would have disagreements about putting the rails up. When I saw him do it, at that point, I just wanted to see what kind of kid he'd grow into."
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Following the path of his father and grandfather fills Parker with pride, but when it comes to recruiting, he may not follow in their footsteps.
"I'm looking to make a decision after my official visits," he said. "Once I get the chance to take them all and see what everyone has on the plate, then I'll judge."
Parker has taken official visits to Arkansas and Texas A&M, and he's made unofficial stops at Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas. Weather permitting, he will be at the Sooners-Cowboys game Saturday. All of the aforementioned schools could win his services, as could USC, Ole Miss, Baylor or Ohio State.
Many think he'll stay in state. He would be the Sooners' sixth ESPN 300 commit and only the second safety in the 2014 class. If he chose Oklahoma State, he'd be the fourth ESPN 300 commit, and he'd join his high school teammate, three-star safety Dylan Harding.
Or will Parker start his own legacy by choosing an out-of-state school? He enjoyed making visits to Texas A&M and Arkansas, and he is excited about setting up other visits.
"We've talked about it, and at the end of the day, my perspective is for him to do what he wants to do," Steven said. "I don't let my history or his grandfather's history shape what he wants to do. This is about recruiting Steven. We don't have any more eligibility."
Regardless of where he ends up, Parker will definitely benefit from the family members who came before him -- family members who have borderline legendary stories to tell.
It's the life of being a Parker. And it's a life he loves living.
"I come from a football background. It was always going to be there for me, and my dad taught me everything I know," Parker said. "Because of him and my grandfather, I feel like nothing can really stop me besides myself. I'm my own fear of getting where I want to be."
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