By Al Thompson
Many football players who are able to climb the ladder of success all the way to the NFL prefer to play in a different city than their hometown.
There are usually too many distractions. Old friends and relatives hanging around, ticket requests, maybe even some bad influences from a different life.
Teams usually stay away from drafting or signing players from the home of the team.
That does not appear to be the case with Eagles free agent signee Will Parks. The 25-year-old defensive back played his scholastic football at Germantown High School of the Public League.
There have been eight football seasons since his days suiting up for the Bears: Four years playing for the University of Arizona and four with the Denver Broncos.
“I’m super excited to put that uniform on and get started and go to work” Parks said in a recent conference call after signing a one-year, $1.5 million contract, most of it guaranteed.
Parks said the one-year deal was not disappointing because in the NFL, all you have is the season in front of you. The guaranteed money can improve for next year if he plays well.
“To be honest, this is a chance for me to prove myself to the whole league,” Parks said. “Whether it’s one year, two year or three year…every year is a one-year deal. When you think of it that way, you’ll go to work, you’ll go hard every day, you’ll focus on the main thing and that’s to win the game.”
Parks had some choices but chose to come back to Philadelphia, where he grew up. He explained why.
“The opportunity to come home, the scheme that they use, the way they use the players, the camaraderie, the franchise history, the fans,” Parks said. “The way the Eagles fans love their team, good and bad. I’m not worried about any of that. The pride and the love for the city…it was all that. It’s just a perfect situation.”
Parks, who is listed as a safety but can play slot corner, was asked if being allowed to play multiple positions was a reason why he chose to come to the Eagles and play for Jim Schwartz.
“That was a big, big, big reason,” Parks said emphatically. “The way Jim uses a lot of his guys back there. When you have a coach or a DC that knows your strong suits and doesn’t want to limit you, lets you sprawl, and wants you to be you. Plus, the city and my family. It was just a perfect situation to start my legacy, play football and help this team win games.”
Howie Roseman, executive vice president/general manager of the Eagles, said the team liked his youth and versatility.
“A versatile guy, 25 years old, a guy we saw do a lot of things we’re looking for,” Roseman said in a recent conference call. “A guy being able to play in the box, able to cover a tight end, also having the experience to have some range to play in the backfield. We know his mentality. We know his passion for the game. We think he’ll be a good addition for us.”
The 6-foot-1, 208-pounder was drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
For his career, Parks has played in 62 games with 15 starts (seven in 2019), recorded four interceptions, 13 defended passes, one forced fumble, one sack, 149 total tackles (104 solo), four tackles for loss and five quarterback hits. In Denver, he played both safety positions and slot corner. He missed just two games in four regular seasons with the Broncos.
Parks talked about his best attribute – being versatile.
“I think that’s just part of how I’ve been since I was a kid in Philadelphia, playing at Germantown High School,” Parks said. “Going to Arizona, where guys move me around during my college career. Then moving on to the NFL, my first four years, they (coaches) have been able to put me around to different positions and learn the playbook. When you know what everyone is doing, it makes your job easier. It’s something I take a lot of pride in.”
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell ordered all team practice facilities closed until further notice. Governors in almost every state have closed most fitness centers and private training facilities. That means players must find a way on their own to stay in some kind of shape.
Parks said he has weights at his house in Philadelphia. He said he also sneaks out to a park and uses overhead bars in a playground to do pull-ups. Parks said he is just trying to grind any way he can.
“It sucks,” Parks said. “It definitely sucks not being able to do the things you normally do, but I think I’m doing a good job of adapting.”
“I pride myself in working the hardest,” said Parks, who lists Hall of Fame safety Brian Dawkins as his favorite Eagles player. “The fact that all these gyms and parks are closed is driving me nuts right now. But I think it’s a matter of just being cautious. It’s a terrible time in the world right now. We all have to be extra careful. People are dying out there. It’s a serious condition, and we have to take measures by any means. Having the ability to adapt is the biggest thing right now, whether it’s training differently in the house or training somewhere there’s no one else around. You have to do things differently. It’s something that we all hope could end pretty soon.”
Parks said his father is a Cowboys fan and his mother is a passionate Eagles fan. He said it didn’t matter that much to him personally before, but these are different times.
“I don’t know how he became one,” Park said with a laugh. “It is what it is. But he’s a Will Parks fan, so he’s going to have to be a Philadelphia fan now that I’m with the Eagles.”
No, being back home won’t be a problem for Parks, just ask him. ••
Follow Al Thompson on Twitter @thompsoniii