Jan. 5, 2004
By Marcus Malmberg, Sports Information Student Assistant
There are two minutes and thirty seconds left in the game and the Utes are in trouble. Bradlee Van Pelt, Colorado State's quarterback is leading a march down the field and it looks as if the Rams are going to single-handedly put an end to the magic Utah fans have witnessed in the beginning of the Urban Meyer era. Then it happens. As the Rams run a sweep to the left side, Van Pelt pitches it to running back Marcus Houston. As Houston rounds the corner, Ute safety Dave Revill lays a hit Ute fans won't forget any time soon. The hit causes the ball to squirt out and shoot into the air...
Ute defensive back Arnold Parker has come to know this type of situation well this season; the game hanging in the balance and someone needs to step up and make a play. In four-and-one-half years at Utah Parker has seen his share of uncertain situations. After an outstanding sophomore season at safety, which included honorable mention all-conference honors, the Utah coaching staff decided to move Parker from safety to corner. "I thought it would be easier than it was. My first year at corner was kind of slow. I missed a lot of practices due to injury. This year I've done better. I just go out there and have fun," says Parker. After using last year to get acclimated with the position, Parker has given the league's best defense stability at the corner position. He's also proved he's still a playmaker.
Along with the change of position, Utah has undergone changes of its own. The team saw a change in coaches over the off-season when Urban Meyer replaced Ron McBride. "At first I thought Urban was all business, but the more I got to know him I found out he's family oriented," notes Parker. "As a team we are like a family. With coach Meyer it takes a lot of hard work and we always going non-stop. You'll be tired and he'll just look at you and say that we just have to keep on going and keep fighting."
Besides the changes, Parker has also been forced to deal with the constant criticism that comes with playing corner. "All people see is your mistakes. For them to see the good it's got to be an interception or a pass break-up. They don't see what you do the rest of the game. It doesn't bother me because it's a family team and we just try to keep our heads up. So far the corners have done well this year, and I'm sure coach is proud of us," adds Parker.
Parker came to Utah from Cimarron High School in Las Vegas, Nev. At Cimarron, he was the 1998 Nevada Player of the Year, along with being an all-state selection at both linebacker and running back. "I came here for a couple different reasons. One was that Fred Wittingham was a coach and I heard a lot of good things about him. I felt that if I could learn from him it could help me to take my game to the next-step. Another reason was I clicked well with some of the players on my recruiting trip and we all decided to come here together."
During his time at Utah, Parker has learned a great deal about football and the importance of family. "I've learned you need to always appreciate your teammates-they are your family. Also you have to go to work all the time, stay positive and have fun doing what you're doing," Parker declares. As for his family outside of football, Parker credits his mom and sister the most. His mom was the one who first got him involved with track and eventually football. "My family is all love and fun. My mother has been my biggest supporter in life, through anything I do. She worked so hard for me and she is my motivation," says Parker. "I got through tough times in football and school by just thinking of her. That's what got me over the hump."
As he credits his mother for getting him involved with sports, Parker is also quick to credit his teammates for his continued success in football. "I appreciate all of my teammates. It has been fun the last four-and-a-half years going through all that we've been through. I love Utah football and hope all the younger guys keep getting better and make this program bigger than ever."
With Utah now controlling its own destiny in the conference race, Parker is a large reason why Utah's program is continuing to turn heads. The senior is ever so close to achieving his dream of going out with a conference championship.
... back to Fort Collins, Colo., on that faithful Saturday night in late September. As the ball leaves Houston's grip, the silence of Utah fans everywhere is quickly erased by loud shouts when Arnold Parker picks up the loose ball and makes a break for the end zone. That break ends up being 80 yards, but well worth the effort as Utah secures the league victory.
"Dave just hit him and I saw the ball pop out and I caught it and then ran down the field. I was just excited we did it and our defense helped us to win the game," says Parker. It should be no surprise he chose to give the credit to his teammates. "Dave just made a great play. It was more him than me," claims Parker.
But with that said, Utah football fans can rest a little easier this season knowing Arnold Parker was in the right place at the right time-and that probably some skill was also involved.