BOWLING GREEN - After a little more than a week of fall football practice, a “true” freshman has staked his claim to a starting role on the Bowling Green football team.
But rookie defensive end Devon Parks has had more than one week to impress the Falcons coaching staff.
Parks enrolled at BGSU last spring after graduating early from Libertyville High School in suburban Chicago. That move was something the 18-year-old said he had planned long before last winter.
“I took courses early to graduate early - I knew that was something I wanted to do,” Parks said. “And boom! Here was the right situation. I was driven by the possibility of playing as a true freshman. I knew if I came here and worked hard, things could happen.”
The 6-3, 233-pounder said the adjustment from high school to college football wasn't easy.
“It was `interesting' going into spring [practice] with coach Hillman,” Parks said of BG's strength-and-conditioning coach, Aaron Hillman. When asked if “interesting” meant the winter conditioning program was tougher physically or mentally than high school, Parks said, “All of the above. The practice tempo and how the seniors took it seriously [made it tougher], and I had to follow suit to keep up.
“The transition at first was tough. But it's an effort-based program.”
And Parks hasn't been afraid to put in the effort. He finished with 11 tackles in the spring game, an impressive total for a lineman, and has made himself the leading candidate for the starting spot as the Falcons' open-side end.
“And he has earned that,” said defensive-line coach John Bowers. “We've got a good group of defensive ends; we've got six guys that by the end of camp will be able to go into a game and compete for us. We've got great competition there, but right now he's in the lead.”
Bowers said one reason Parks has seized a starting spot on the Falcons' defense is his intensity.
“Devon has played as hard as anyone I've been around in a long, long time,” Bowers said. “From the first day, he has known only one speed. He's a special guy that way, because most freshmen you have to yell at to run and hustle. But rarely do I have to say anything to him about effort.”
“He can run - he can fly. And he plays recklessly, which you love to have. He's going to be a fine football player. He has a ways to go yet, but he's going to do some big-time things here.”
And Bowers thinks Parks' early entry into the Falcon program has helped him in his attempt to play as a freshman.
“Devon has been through the weight program for half a year, and he knows our defense,” Bowers said. “He knows the pace that we practice at, which is the biggest thing for freshmen to get used to. And he's not homesick like a lot of guys are right now. Instead of trying to just get through practice, he's trying to get better.”
Best of all, Parks' early enrollment at BGSU didn't cause him to miss any of the special events a high school senior will always remember.
“I went to my senior prom and everything,” Parks said. “I went home to Chicago, and the coaches were kind enough to let me go home. To be honest with you, I have no regrets.”
MEDICAL LOG: Most of the Falcons have managed to avoid injury as the team works its way through training camp, but two players currently are out of action.
Freshman tight end Sean O'Drobinak suffered a sprained finger that required surgery; he is expected to be out of action for the next month.
Sophomore linebacker Ross Kollar dislocated his right knee and will miss the next two-to-three weeks.