Daniel Parker might not be in a class by himself, but as former Houston Oilers coach Bum Phillips once said about Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell, “It doesn’t take long to call roll.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior lineman plays in one of the best conferences, for one of the top teams in the state of Missouri, and he never left the playing field following the fourth game of the 2017 season.
The Blue Springs High School standout started out the season as one of the premier offensive linemen in the Midwest, and after a disappointing 2-2 start, coach Kelly Donohoe asked Parker to take his talent to the defensive line.
The result: A second consecutive Class 6 state championship appearance and the respect of his coaches, teammates and opponents.
Parker, while playing in just 10 games as a starting defensive lineman, came within half of a sack of Elijah Lee’s single-season mark of 17.5 by totaling 17 sacks and 22 tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
He was named the Suburban Big Seven Defensive Player of the Year, won the Buck Buchanan Award as the top lineman or linebacker in the metro area and garnered several state and national honors for his defensive prowess, including the Missouri Football Coaches Association’s Class 6 Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-state selection.
So why is Daniel Parker The Examiner’s 2017 Offensive Player of the Year?
“I know this award will surprise a lot of people, especially casual fans who really didn’t watch Daniel on the offensive line,” Donohoe said, “but I think it’s great an offensive lineman wins your offensive award and I think it’s even better that it’s Daniel.
“He played both sides of the ball, kickoff, punt, special teams – he never left the field, and he played at such a high level all season. And he grew up so much this season – as a player and a person.
”Daniel was a wonderful teammate this season, a senior leader who made an impact on the field and in our locker room. He was great in the classroom and in the hallways and his play on the offensive line was so special.”
Chase Donohoe, the Wildcats quarterback who happens to be the coach’s son, agrees after Parker helped him throw for 1,755 yards and 15 touchdowns and helped the offense amass 4,827 yards while advancing to the Class 6 state championship game for the second straight year.
“You never had to worry about anyone getting past Daniel,” Chase said. “He was so good. He really raised his level of play this season by playing offense and defense and special teams. He was definitely one of the best players on our team.”
When Parker, who plans to play on defense in college, signed with Missouri on Dec. 20, the Mizzou Twitter site posted highlight reels of his offensive and defensive feats. The offensive reel featured highlight after highlight of his pancake blocks on opposing defenders.
When defensive line coach Derek Wilson learned of Parker’s honor, he slapped his hands together and let out a shout.
“Well deserved!” Wilson said. “You can make an impact on the defensive line and everyone knows about sacks and tackles behind the line of scrimmage. But what Daniel did, playing both ways – and playing both ways at such a high level – was a big reason we were able to make it to the state championship game.
“Plus, he became an All-American teammate. He was always an All-American talent, (but) this year, he became an All-American teammate and that was a huge bonus for the team.”
Offensive line coach Joel Page shared in Wilson’s excitement.
“Awesome!” Page said. “It’s great that an offensive lineman receive this type of recognition. He had 50-plus pancake blocks this season. He has so many, we lost count. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a high school player have a better season than the one Daniel had for us this year.”
And what does Parker think about all this hoopla?
It’s tough to catch up with the multi-sport star who during the William Jewell Holiday Basketball Classic became just the fifth male Wildcat player to surpass 1,000 career points.
“This is just about as special an honor as you can receive,” Parker said, grinning from ear to ear. “I was real excited when I won the Buchanan Award, because it’s the best players from Missouri and Kansas and there were so many great players up for the award.
“But this was is also special because I know how much The Examiner covers the local schools and there were some great offensive players in the area. There were some great offensive players on my own team, so this is special.
“It means a lot to me. You know, it’s kind of funny because when I was a freshman, basketball was my sport. That’s what I thought I’d play in college.
“Then, my sophomore year I had a good football season, and my focus changed over to football, although I knew I’d still play basketball because I love it so much.
“But I knew this year I had to be in the best shape of my life, because there was a chance I was going to play both ways in football, so I dropped about 35 pounds, got a lot stronger and had a pretty good season.
“Even though we didn’t win state, I’m proud of what we accomplished. I’m proud that I really grew up as a man and became a leader on this team and I can’t wait for the next challenge.”
That challenge awaits Parker at Mizzou, where he has signed a national letter of intent to play defense.
“You know me, the bigger the challenge, the better I perform,” Parker said. “And playing at Missouri is going to be my biggest challenge and I can’t wait to be a Tiger.”