Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Former-walk on making an impact at UConn

When Spencer Parker graduated from Newington High and peered into the crystal ball at his future he has visions of a promising athletic future.

However, it was on the volleyball court where Parker thought he would be leaving his mark and not playing in front of a record 42,704 at Rentschler Field against 11-time national champion Michigan in a nationally-televised college football game.

Parker did more than just play in the game, he scored the Huskies' first touchdown when he caught an 11-yard pass from Chandler Whitmer with 3:54 to play in the first half.

He finished the game with 17 yards on a pair of catches. He caught a two-point conversion pass in the season-opening loss to Towson which isn't too shabby for a former walk-on.

"It is just awesome that it has worked out like that," Parker said. "Chandler threw a perfect ball and you can’t really ask for anything more. Things are unreal right now, it is awesome..

"My phone was completely blowing up with text messages, facebook messages, it is awesome to see everybody show so much support."

Parker originally enrolled at Division III Lasell College in Newton, Mass. As a freshman in 2010 Parker had a team-high 228 kills to go with 35 blocks and 95 digs. However, Lasell did not have a football team and Parker wasn't ready to give up on his football-playing days quite so quickly. As a senior at Newington High Parker passed for 1,487 yards and eight touchdowns while running for an additional 1,282 and 15 more scores. So he decided to transfer to UConn and take his chances at making the Huskies as a walk-on.

Arriving in time to take part in spring drills in 2011, Parker worked his way into being a key special teams' producer last season. Now he is the second-stringer tight end who has more straight-line speed than former UConn tight end and current Houston Texans' rookie Ryan Griffin according to UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni.

So this is how he drew it up coming out of high school, right?

"Not even close," Parker said. "I thought going to a school for volleyball I thought I would stay there for volleyball or transfer somewhere else bigger for volleyball. But initially I never thought that this would be anything that could happen, this is such an unreal experience and it is just awesome."

His teammates have a tremendous amount of respect for how hard Parker has worked to get to this point.

"For him and even the walk-ons who don’t play, I give them an unbelievable amount of credit and respect because what they do through day in and day out and to know  in the back of their heads that they are not going to even play," UConn sophomore running back Max DeLorenzo said, "Spencer is a different breed, a great athlete. He got an opportunity for his last year and credit  to him and all those guys because they are mentally tough."

Parker received the ultimate compliment from his head coach when Pasqualoni informed him earlier this semester that he was giving Parker a scholarship for his final season at UConn.

"I was down in the training room and he came down that day," Parker said. "I usually don’t see him that often he came in and he told me he was going to be able to put me on scholarship, shook my hand. It was such an awesome experience, I was just so happy."



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