Brandon Parker may be a quick-footed 6-foot-7, 310-pound NFL prospect today, just moments away from putting on a display in front of 32 NFL teams. But there are two people who remember well the days when the talented North Carolina A&T lineman was hardly bigger than 1-foot-7 and couldn't walk at all.
Regina and Curtis Parker are the real experts in the room, the true evaluators. They have gotten a chance to watch their son develop into a national story. They've had a chance to watch a boy who loved to tinker with radios and Playstations and later cars — breaking them down and then putting them back together — earn his electrical engineering degree when the NFL draft prospect easily could have taken an easier academic route.
The Kannapolis (N.C.) natives also have watched how their son has handled the attention with complete grace, thanks mostly to their own hard work raising a kid the right way.
"Maybe around age four, he would wrap himself up in a blanket on the floor and would tell us he was a special delivery from God," Regina told HERO Sports, with a quick chuckle at the memory. "He's been a great son, and he's very loving. We brought him up in the church and today both of our children are Christians. He is a gentle person.
"Now don't get me wrong, he's heavy handed. He'll do something and accidentally push you and you'll fall over when he thought he barely tapped you. He doesn't know his own strength."
Parker may not know his own strength, but NFL Scouts know it well. Like many FCS prospects, Parker was just a late bloomer when he came to college — he wasn't lacking in the talent department. His parents told HERO Sports that both their children — Brandon and Jasmine — skipped Kindergarten. That automatically made the children younger than most of their peers when they were in high school.
Brandon was 17 when he went to college, more than 50 pounds lighter than he is today, soaking wet. He needed to grow into his body, redshirting the 2013 season — then proceeding to start every single game of his four-year playing career from 2014 to the Celebration Bowl victory in December. That's 48 games of experience — including last year's 12-0 season.
It's not that surprising he grew into his body and became a star. His father was an all-ACC offensive lineman for the North Carolina Tar Heels in the early 1990s under then coach Mack Brown. His mother was a high school basketball superstar who walked on at UNC, and his sister also Jasmine played for North Carolina A&T.
But Brandon may edge them all out, because he's being mentioned frequently as a Day Two NFL Draft pick. Hearing his name mentioned as a second or third rounder has become common place, and he was invited to the Senior Bowl and on Friday television viewers can tune into the NFL Network to watch Brandon in the combine.
The Parker Family (L-R) – Brandon, Jasmine, Curtis and Regina (Credit: Parker family)
Along with being a cerebral lineman, he has gotten here by working hard on being nimble, not just leaning on his size and strength. He has a basketball body, and that helps when you're trying to be an NFL offensive tackle.
"Early on when we had him in AAU (basketball), he wasn't really into it too much, but I told him that basketball really does help your feet," Curtis told HERO Sports. "I told him that pass blocking is just like one-on-one defense. I told him that every other sport would help with his hand-eye coordination. I was always pushing him to jump rope, and he fought me tooth and nail on that."
Football was clearly his first love, going waaaaaay back, even though he had all the tools needed to be a fantastic basketball player.
"My sister was getting married and she really wanted him to be her ring bearer," Regina said. "He was kind of going along with it until we started shopping for a tuxedo.
"He told me he didn't want to be a ring bearer, he wanted to be a football player. So we talked him into doing it, but the only way he would put on the tuxedo is if he could have a red football jersey up underneath it. He was three or four years old then."
Brandon told HERO Sports that there was one consistency in his participation in athletics.
"My dad coached literally every team I've been on — football, basketball, T-ball," Brandon said. "If he could coach it and had the time, he would do it. He's passed a lot of knowledge down to me and my sister and he's a great factor in all of this success. My parents had a lot to do with all of this … as early as I could have a ball and play in the neighborhood, I was encouraged to compete."
He's made two parents proud, and this weekend he may impress the NFL world as well.
"I always told him to keep his standards high," Curtis said. "After his freshman year (at N.C. A&T) we were starting to talk about the next level, and I told him things I saw that I felt he could work on, that he needed to be hungry in the weight room and use that technique. Once he got his body caught up with his technique he'd be good.
"And we talked about being humble, dodging those pitfalls in life, and he appreciates that. We was always involved in the church, and because of that, I think that's why he is so blessed now. It doesn't surprise me.
"I've always told him, play as long as you can, but maybe just look at it as a head start in life. We never wanted football to be what it's all about, just the icing on the cake. So now he'll get to have some cake of life and some icing too."
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