QB Parker back on Clemson campus
CLEMSON, S.C. -- Kyle Parker's view on his Clemson football future wasn't that different from many worried Tiger fans.
"I pretty much thought I was gone," Parker said Tuesday.
Instead, the Colorado Rockies' top draft pick was back on campus reconnecting with football teammates he hadn't worked with since the spring.
Parker acknowledged he wasn't sure he'd ever throw passes again when the Rockies took him with the 26th pick overall last month. Instead, the two sides couldn't agree by July 20 -- Parker's deadline to let football coach Dabo Swinney know his plans -- and the first Division player to throw 20 touchdowns and hit 20 homers the same year happily returned to Death Valley.
"It's funny how things work out," Parker said. "After I made the decision, I felt at peace and felt like it happened for a reason."
Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett was surprised at Parker's return, but was glad his player will be around some more -- albeit on a different field.
"Not many guys would've done what he did," Leggett said.
Parker said he and Rockies will continue talking until the Aug. 16 deadline on a contract that lets him report for baseball in the spring. Should those negotiations falter, it could set up even more drama for Parker who's eligible for the both the NFL and MLB drafts in 2011.
"That's a whole lot of things up in the air," Parker said.
Swinney believes Parker's pro football upside is as great as his baseball potential. And, after a slow start, Parker proved that with a stellar freshman season.
He threw for 20 touchdowns and 2,526 yards, both Clemson freshman records. His 26-yard scoring strike to Jacoby Ford in overtime brought Clemson a 40-37 win at Miami, part of six-game win streak that lifted the Tigers to their first ACC Atlantic Division title.
The Tigers already enter this year without record-setters in tailback C.J. Spiller, receiver Ford and tight end Michael Palmer. Losing Parker would've been another dent in Clemson's hopes to repeat as Atlantic Division champs.
"There's nothing like experience at that position," Swinney said.
Parker can't wait to get going after an extended break away from athletics. If anyone deserved a rest, though, it was Parker.
He was the untested rookie in early 2009 who couldn't afford to miss a practice or a film session while juggling spring football and his second baseball season. The relentless pace continued as Parker won the starting quarterback job and helped Clemson to a 9-5 mark and its first bowl victory in four years.
A couple of weeks after football ended, Parker was back at it in the batting cage as Clemson's right fielder-designated hitter. Things didn't end until late June as the Tigers advanced to the College World Series.
Parker said friends, coaches and teammates sent text messages and called constantly, wanting any clue about his athletic direction when all he wanted was a break.
Parker felt relief when a July deadline passed without a deal and he could call Swinney with the news he'd be back.
"He said something like 'Hot damn,'" Parker recalled.
For Swinney, Parker's decision left just about every pro avenue open. "This is a guy that'd be walking away from a potential pro career in another sport," the coach said.
Not that Parker's teammates minded his late return. Tight end Dwayne Allen said last week he grew emotional when he learned Parker was coming back.
"I didn't mean to make him cry," Parker joked. "I guess I could throw him a couple of balls."
Parker says it won't take long to return to football shape. He got in some running Monday and planned to throw with teammates more this week. The Tigers officially report for summer camp Monday with their first practice Tuesday evening.
Swinney and Leggett expect a deal with the Rockies to get done soon. Parker will carry disability insurance to protect his financial position in case of football injury.
Now, though Parker is locked into football and his increased role in Clemson's offense.
"I'm just thinking about getting that [August] date out of the way and going to play," Parker said. "Because that's what I like doing, I like to play ball."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press