10:00 PM ET, September 18, 2003
Spartan Stadium (CA), San Jose, CA
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."