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Great article on Thomas(TP) Parker

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Great article on Thomas(TP) Parker

3 pages of an amazing time in his life. I had the pleasure of being around him over the years. This young man is even more impressive in person.

BTW…this is from our favorite scribe at the sentinel too.. :o



Read On:



Trials of Thomas Parker's life can be seen on the surface. But his courage goes deeper

By Ted Hutton
Staff Writer
Posted November 22 2005


BOCA RATON ? It's all there, ripped, stitched or stenciled on his skin.

Each scar, each tattoo is part of the saga that has made Thomas Parker, a wide receiver at Florida Atlantic, a finalist for this year's Football Writers Association Courage Award.

There is a blossom of scars on the right elbow, some created by torn flesh, others the neat lines carved by a surgeon's scalpel.

Another, like the slash from a murderer's knife, runs under his chin, partially hidden by a beard.

And there, sitting on his left biceps with a smile, an ink portrait of his mother, Dorothy.

Line by line, they tell the story of a young man who first had his bones crushed, and then his heart, and each time he came back to college and the football field.

Parker will play his final game for FAU on Saturday, overcoming his physical injuries and spiritual wounds to do so.

"He's an inspiration for me," said Casey McGahee, a teammate and friend. "I don't have to read about it in a book. I have a living example right in front of my face every day."

The ugliest etches on Parker's skin came unintentionally, but were a result of the best intentions.

It was the summer of 2003. Parker was home in Miami, looking forward to this third season at FAU.

A starter in 2001, Parker had been replaced in the lineup in 2002, and was hoping to earn that spot back when camp began in August.

It was June 29, a typical steamy South Florida summer afternoon. A thunderstorm had just passed through, leaving the air as heavy as a wet wool blanket.

Parker and his cousin were driving near their home when they saw two motorcycles skid on the wet pavement and collide.

Parker and his cousin stopped to help, and were kneeling by one of the injured motorcyclists waiting for the ambulance.

"That's the last thing I remember until I woke up in surgery," Parker said.

What he doesn't remember is a car failing to make a turn and plowing into Parker and his cousin. He doesn't remember being airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where doctors examined a patient with internal injuries, a shattered elbow and broken jaw.

"I got a call from one of my daughters, and all I heard was screaming. Just screaming," said Maria James, Parker's grandmother.

James said she got her keys and went to the car, intending to drive to Jackson right then. "But I couldn't make it. I just lay down in the front seat and cried," James said.

She went to see her grandson the next day. And now, more than two years later, James begins to sob when she describes what she found.

"To look at him … his face … swollen so bad … so hard to look at … thank God for bringing him and his cousin through," James said.

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Great article on Thomas(TP) Parker

"It showed me you never can take life for granted. You never know when you will be taken from this earth," Parker said. "When I woke up that day, I didn't know I would be hit by a car."

The next scars were intentional, the ones made by surgeons to repair the damage. The one high on his throat was to wire up his jaw, the ones on the elbow to piece together the bones and repair the tendons.

Parker would miss the entire 2003 season, when FAU went 11-4 and made it to the Division I-AA semifinals.

While the team was having success, Parker was in rehabilitation, trying to regain mobility in his elbow.

When he asked doctors if they thought he could play football again, they gave him a 10 percent chance.

"I knew Thomas would make it back because one of the first places he came to when he got out of the hospital was the Oxley Center," said McGahee, referring to the building that houses the FAU locker room. "He was all bandaged up and looked pretty bad, but I just knew he could do it."

DEAR MOMMA

While Parker was battling to return to football, he was also helping his mother with a much more serious fight.

Dorothy Wells had been diagnosed as HIV positive in 1993, when Parker was 12. Since then, he had been helping her deal with it.

Drugs had helped, but her health would fluctuate as she fought off infections.

"His focus was always being diverted," said FAU assistant coach Fred O'Connor, who has a close relationship with Parker. "It was a private part of his life, but imagine what he was going through every day."

Parker did make it back onto the team, but he was not the same.

At 6 feet 2, he is FAU's tallest receiver, and his speed makes him a deep threat.

But in 2004 he still could not extend his right arm fully, a huge problem for a receiver.

Parker ended the season with 14 catches for 206 yards, the lowest totals of his career.

"You have to remember it was like he was a freshman again, starting all over," O'Connor said.

Then came another problem. The NCAA said Parker had used up his five years of eligibility, and his career was over.

Parker was part of FAU's initial signing class, and all those players were redshirted in 2000, when the Owls practiced but did not play a game.

Ed Hayward, FAU's associate athletic director for compliance, said Parker would need to appeal to the NCAA for a waiver to get a sixth year, since he had only played three seasons in his five years.

Hayward thought Parker had a good case. "He was being a Good Samaritan and it nearly got him killed. He missed a year, and then he had to deal with another tragedy," Hayward said.

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Great article on Thomas(TP) Parker

That is why there is a portrait of his mother tattooed on Parker's left arm, and under it the words, "Dear Momma."

On Jan. 18, 2005, his mother died of pneumonia due to complications from AIDS.

"That was a killer," Parker said about losing his mother. "I didn't think I could play after that."

Parker disappeared for a while. "Everyone was worried about him," said quarterback Danny Embick.

Maria James said her grandson was visiting his mother's grave every chance he could get. "I told him we have to go on," James said.

Embick said he knew Parker was getting past his mom's death when he started showing up at the Oxley Center.

"It was like an escape for him. He could get away from that and be with friends," Embick said.

Parker finally did move on, convinced his mother would have wanted him to play if the NCAA said he could.

But that answer was slow in coming. Parker started camp in August still not sure if he would be playing.

Finally, with the season opener a week away, and after Parker had pretty much given up and missed two practices, Hayward listened to a message on his answering machine from someone at the NCAA.

"I started yelling, and then had a coach come in and listen to make sure I was hearing it right," Hayward said. Then he called in Parker, who let out a yell and ran from the office.

Parker got the waiver. He would play this season.

COMING AROUND

Parker had a new nickname after that, "T.P. Reloaded."

He has made the best of his chance, and goes into Saturday's game at Florida International as FAU's leading receiver with 24 catches for 474 yards, the best numbers of his career.

In the season opener at Kansas, Parker, who still cannot fully extend his right arm, scored FAU's first touchdown, a 66-yarder on a pass from Embick.

Embick said that pass is the most memorable moment of his career.

"It punctuated the fact that he was back. It was a really good feeling to connect with him like that," Embick said.

O'Connor said the most rewarding part of being with Parker for six years has been watching him grow up. "His development as a person has been inspirational to me," O'Connor said. "Hopefully none of us will ever have to deal with what this young man has had to face in such a short period of time."

Another tattoo goes around his wrist, "What goes around comes around," it says.

"That's right. Do something good, and it comes back to you," Parker said. "That's the way I try and lead my life."

Ted Hutton can be reached at [email protected]
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Great article on Thomas(TP) Parker

Best artical hutton has written... Hope he can pull off a highlight game against FIU
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Great article on Thomas(TP) Parker

I have a feeling that he will. 8-)
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