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Redshirt junior running back Kevin Parks has the second most rushing yards in UVa history after two seasons. He is looking forward to adding to that total in 2013.
Associated Press | File 2011
Virginia running back Kevin Parks celebrates with fans on the field after UVa’s 24-21 win over No. 12 Georgia Tech at Scott Stadium in 2011. “I want to be great,” the redshirt junior running back said recently. “It’s my goal to be one of the best running backs to come through UVa.”
Associated Press | File 2012
Virginia running back Kevin Parks (25) follows former UVa offensive tackle Oday Aboushi (72) downfield last season. Parks, who has started just two games in two seasons, has 1,443 rushing yards heading into his junior year.
Saturday, July 13, 2013
CHARLOTTESVILLE — Virginia running back Kevin Parks had been waiting for a good time to ask the question:
“Coach, why didn’t you recruit me?” Parks asked UVa associate head coach Tom O’Brien during a break in spring practice.
O’Brien didn’t blink.
“Because I heard you weren’t good enough,” O’Brien said.
Nobody could keep a straight face after that one.
“As you can see, I haven’t changed,” said O’Brien, always quick with a zinger when he was an assistant coach at Virginia during the 1980s and 1990s.
O’Brien was the head coach at North Carolina State when Parks, then a junior at West Rowan High School in Salisbury, N.C., committed to then-Virginia assistant Wayne Lineburg on Feb. 23, 2009.
The Wolfpack had other prospects ahead of Parks, but not because he wasn’t good enough — then or now.
In his first two seasons of competition, Parks, who was redshirted in 2010, has rushed for 1,443 yards.
Know how many ex-UVa running backs entered their third season with more rushing yards? One, Wali Lundy, who rushed for 1,755 yards during the 2002-03 seasons.
“I never would have guessed that,” O’Brien said. “I think of all the great running backs we had when I was here the first time — Terry Kirby, Nikki Fisher, Tiki Barber, Thomas Jones. You’re saying that [Parks] is ahead of all those guys?”
Moreover, Parks — who shared time with Perry Jones in his first two seasons — has started only two games.
Now, Jones has completed his eligibility, and former prized recruit Clifton Richardson has transferred to Liberty. Parks (5 foot 8, 205 pounds) won’t lack for carries.
“He’s a guy who can give you 50 plays a game,” said O’Brien, speaking to Parks’ versatility as a blocker and receiver. “I don’t think it’s going to bother him to carry the ball 25 times.
“He’s a powerful guy and he does a good job of hiding. He’s not tall in stature, but he does a good job of using his blockers, getting behind guys and popping a seam.”
The first thing O’Brien mentions about Parks is his leadership and O’Brien doesn’t know the half of that.
On the night before 11-point underdog Virginia met North Carolina State last year, Parks stood before his teammates and spoke passionately of his desire to prove his one-time doubters wrong.
Parks carried 25 times for 115 yards, including a 31-yard touchdown gallop with 4:28 left as the Cavaliers beat the Wolfpack 33-6, Some would say the lopsided loss to Virginia contributed to O’Brien’s dismissal as Wolfpack coach, but when he joined the UVa staff in January, his appreciation for Parks only grew.
“He has all the intangibles that you want in a kid,” O’Brien said. “I think right now, in the position we are as a football program, we need that. There’s only eight seniors on this football team and only about four of them play. We’ve got to get some leadership from our junior class and our sophomore class.”
Larry Lewis, once the head coach at Idaho, will coach the running backs this year after the departure of Mike Faragalli, one of four assistants dismissed by UVa following a 4-8 season in 2012.
Lewis is one of three newcomers who are former head coaches, joining O’Brien and new offensive coordinator Steve Fairchild, who spent four seasons as head coach at Colorado State.
“I feel like Coach Fairchild wants to be physical,” Parks said. “We’re going to run the football.”
O’Brien seconded that notion Friday, but expressed concern about right guard Sean Cascarano, who has a persistent hip problem that could send the Cavaliers searching for other options.
Upon Fairchild’s appointment, Parks did a Google search and discovered that Fairchild was the offensive coordinator for a St. Louis Rams team that featured one of the most prolific running backs in football history, Marshall Faulk.
Faulk, listed at 5 -10 and 205 pounds, rushed for more than 12,000 yards and had more than 6,000 receiving yards in a pro career that gained him entrance into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2011.
While the Cavaliers’ receiving leader last year was Jones, who had 49 catches, Virginia quarterbacks did not hesitate to look for Parks, who had 24 grabs.
“I want to be great,” Parks said. “The game is different now. Stats are meant to be broken, so that’s my motivation when I come into the weight room or when we go outside and run gassers, It’s my goal to be one of the best running backs to come through UVa.”
So, again, why wasn’t he recruited by N.C. State?
“He was at a school that had great tradition,” O’Brien said. “The guy there [Scott Young] is a great coach and they do a great job. At a lot of those places, my experience is, you better see the kid yourself because you don’t know if it’s the system or the player.”
Nobody is questioning that now.
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