Aug. 22, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - The new starter on the Huskies' defense, the guy making huge hits and plays nearly every day of preseason camp, has an endearing soft side.
Don't worry, Dawg fans. That side won't show through during games this season.
He won't have his phone while he's on the field.
"I speak to my mom every night, and every time I wake up," strong safety Sean Parker said of his mother back in Los Angeles, Rosslyn Bibbs.
"I just tell her I miss her and I tell her how I'm doing, checking in on the family and everything."
Those are some happy calls these days.
The sophomore - a middle child of nine children, with four sisters and four brothers -- has been a standout of the defense all month. He's turned what might have been a competition to replace departed co-captain Nate Williams at safety into full confirmation that Parker is Washington's new playmaker on the back line.
"Not that he's moved up the depth chart per se, but a guy who has made a lot of plays is Sean Parker. He's just around the ball. He's just a natural football player," UW coach Steve Sarkisian said. "If he doesn't get an interception today he gets his hands on the ball. He's just around the ball quite a bit."
That's not a bad trait for a starting defensive back to have.
"Oh, yeah, absolutely, I feel like I took on the leadership role to be the starter," he said.
Parker's leaping interceptions and sprinting hits on anything near him have also emphatically confirmed he is all the way back from an injury in his shoulder that ended his 2010 Huskies debut.
Defensive backs coach Demetrice Martin keeps his guys pumped for practice each day by charting just about everything then tallying who leads the group in hits, pass breakups, passes defended, proper coverage and, of course, interceptions.
Parker has five interceptions in camp, which galls Desmond Trufant. The junior starting cornerback has four.
"Yeah, he has five," Trufant huffed playfully about Parker after Monday's damp, breezy practice.
Husky fans will be glad to know the guy who talks on the phone to his mom every morning and night isn't calling in search of confidence. When Parker raced across the field to pick off a pass during a team drill Friday night, he ran down the sidelines with his hand in the air and yelling, "That's five!"
He made his verbal commitment to UW early in 2010 with a splash, live on national television, as a member of USA Today's high school All-America second-team from Los Angeles' Narbonne High. Parker picked Washington over Michigan and hometown USC in what was seen as a Huskies coup.
The way he's playing, he's likely to still be seen that way as he begins his career as a UW starter, beginning Sept. 3 against Eastern Washington.
"I'm flow with my decision," he said, breezily. "I knew once I made my decision I would live with it the rest of my life. Ever since my (recruiting) trip I knew I wanted to come here.
"I'm just glad to be here, glad to be a Dawg. I'm happy with my decision."
He played the first nine games last season, as the defense's fifth, "nickel" back and on special teams, where he returned five kickoffs. Then he used bad form tackling in practice days before the Nov. 18 game against UCLA, "and my shoulder gave out on me," he said.
He missed the final four games of the season - the four victories, including the Holiday Bowl - that accelerated UW's return to prominence. He was held out of contact drills in April's spring practice, too. He now says he tempered his frustration by buying into the plan laid out for him by the team's trainers and coaches.
That plan is working wonders. On the team's first day in pads earlier this month, Parker hit running back Jesse Callier with a thud at the line of scrimmage during a 9-on-7 drill - and he smiled.
"All I needed was that first hit to get back into hitting mode," he said. "I felt good about myself. I'm out there fear free. Fearless. Just playing football."
The 2010 turnaround, spearheaded by far stingier defense, came without the ball-hawking Parker on the field. That is a great thought heading into 2011, with Parker poised to break out each Saturday.
"I grew up as a football player, and as a student of game," he said of what he learned during his frustrating 2010. "I know my stuff now, and I'm always willing to learn more, study more film.
"Freshman year you are just trying to get the playbook and schemes. Now it's that I am trying to do extra, on top of what I already know. ... I'm more mature. I'm more comfortable now."
On one of those calls home earlier this month, Parker broke the news to mom that he was starting for the Huskies.
"She's happy. I mean, she's going to be happy regardless. I'm here going to school, not back home getting in trouble," Parker said.
He says a couple of his friends stayed home after high school in the Harbor City area of Los Angles and got into the trouble his mother feared for him.
"She's just happy I got out of all that," he says.
There are a lot of new Huskies fans happy in his family. Parker lives with two of his brothers. One of his older brothers is about to get married, while all four of his sisters live with his father.
He's closest to a younger brother, 11-year-old Brandon Wise.
Does Brandon want to become a college football player like his big brother?
"Of course," Parker said, noting Brandon has already been up for a UW game with their mom. "He plays football right now. Carson Coast Youth Football. He plays every position. Corner. Running back.
"He kind of does everything."
Really? That's exactly what Parker is doing for the Huskies' defense this month.
QUICK HITS: Seniors Will Mahan and Kiel Rasp continue to boom punts. Both kicked 45-plus yarders repeatedly into a swirling breeze during the latest practice. Sarkisian said he will hold off a while longer on deciding who will get the primary duties to begin the season. Sarkisian also said he will likely use both to punt, depending on field position and other game situations. "I think there will be a role for both of them," he said. ... Callier broke off the longest play of Monday's team drills with a sprint through the middle of the defense for a score. The sophomore is filling for Chris Polk as the lead back. ... The rain was the first precipitation of camp, and Sarkisian welcomed the players having to get reacquainted with catching and throwing wet footballs. "I'm glad we got some. We're obviously going to have some before the year is done," the native Southern Californian deadpanned about Seattle's upcoming fall and winter. ... Tuesday's public practice starts at 7:00 p.m.