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Parry returns, but San Jose State falls

11/19/2003

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) -- Untold hours of hard work culminated in
30 historic seconds for Neil Parry -- and now, he isn't satisfied by
his amazing return to football.

Next time, he wants to hit somebody.

Nearly three years after Parry's lower right leg was amputated,
Parry played on San Jose State's special teams wearing a prosthetic right
leg in the Spartans' 42-30 loss to Nevada.

Parry got just one play on San Jose State's punt-return unit,
and he didn't get a chance to knock somebody down.

"I'm kind of mad I didn't do anything," Parry said. "I didn't
hit anybody. That's all I wanted, was to get out there and get a
hit. I just ran down the field."

That disappointing run was nearly a miracle for his fans, family
members and an appreciative crowd.

His comeback required 25 operations, 15 prosthetic legs and
untold hours of physical therapy, but Parry's dream came true when
he joined quarterback Scott Rislov and defensive end Philip Perry
as team captains for the pregame coin toss.

San Jose State made a second-half rally, cutting a 23-point
deficit to five, but lost with a terrible defensive game. Chance
Kretschmer rushed for 156 yards and three touchdowns, and Andy
Heiser passed for 291 yards as the Wolf Pack racked up 563 total
yards and 29 first downs.

"Setbacks make great opportunities for comebacks, which is what
this young man did here," San Jose State coach Fitz Hill said.
"We'll take his example as a role model for this football team.
Hopefully he'll get in there a lot more this year."

Parry's hopes of returning to action were delayed for dismaying
reasons: San Jose State was unable to force a punt in the first
three quarters.

Nevada converted all seven of its third downs while scoring
touchdowns on its first four drives, keeping Parry on the
sidelines. The first quarter was marred by a brawl in the stands
that went on for several minutes.

Parry was active on the San Jose State sideline, slapping his
teammates' helmets and yelling encouragement to the special teams.
As the Spartans fell behind 26-3 late in the first half, Parry
stood by himself on the far end of the San Jose State sideline.

"I think he wanted it to happen (early) so badly, just to get
it over with," said Josh Parry, Neil's older brother who plays
with the Philadelphia Eagles. "But he's come too far to quit.
He'll get in there some way, somehow."

With 13:45 to play, the Wolf Pack finally got stranded deep in
their own territory.

The crowd began to chant "Parry! Parry!" as he sprinted onto
the field and lined up over the right guard. He hit two players on
the snap, then ran easily down the field but couldn't find a block
on the return.

"I didn't do everything I hoped I was going to do," Parry
said. "I wanted to get one of those big blocks, and I will. I
didn't even think about missing my leg. I just thought about what I
had to do."

Parry got another standing ovation and more chants of his name
as he left the field with a shake of his head. He wasn't in the
game when Nevada punted later in the fourth because San Jose State
used a different blocking scheme.

Parry is believed to be the first non-kicker ever to suit up for
NCAA football with a prosthetic limb. He received a standing
ovation from the Spartan Stadium crowd when his name was announced.

Parry took the field with his teammates for warmups an hour
before game time -- and except for the media horde of cameras and
reporters who followed his every move, he was completely
indistinguishable from his teammates.

Dressed in his dark blue No. 32 jersey, Parry participated in
stretching exercises with ease, smiling while twisting his
prosthetic right leg in wide circles and sweeping motions. He
hugged a few of his teammates before heading to the locker room
with trainer Jeb Burns several minutes before his teammates.

Several fans in the typically small San Jose State crowd wore
No. 32 shirts.

Parry severely broke his right leg while playing on kickoff
coverage during a game at UTEP on Oct. 14, 2000. Serious infections
developed in his leg, and it was amputated nine days later.

But in his hospital bed just hours after the amputation, Parry
vowed to play football again. His family initially was frightened
by Parry's determination -- but after seeing the array of prosthetic
technology to match it, Parry's parents and older brother firmly
got behind the plan.

"It just got to the point where we didn't think we had any
business trying to talk him out of it," said Parry's father, Nick.
"He's put in so much hard work and received so much help from so
many people. It's a dream come true."

Josh Parry was a team captain and star linebacker when his walk-on younger brother was injured three years ago. Josh made Philadelphia's practice squad this summer as a fullback -- and the Eagles' bye week gave him a chance to see his brother's comeback.

"I love the game," Josh Parry said. "But I just don't know if I have what he has."