An ear-to-ear smile comes to Daniel Parker’s face when asked about his most prized commodity at the University of Missouri.
“Sleep!” said Parker, who made a quick trip down Interstate 70 from Columbia to visit family and friends over the Independence Day holiday. “If I have any extra time, I’m going to get some extra sleep.”
Parker isn’t just surviving the dog days of July with the Tigers football team, he’s thriving. Well, he’s thriving when he isn’t sleeping.
“My days start at 5:30 a.m.,” he explained. “We start off with agility training. Then we lift (weights) and go the training room – they really take care of us at Mizzou. “Breakfast is one of my favorite meals and I eat eggs and just about anything I want or can think about.
“After breakfast, we’ve got study hall at 8:30. I go to class at 10 and we have lunch at 12:30.”
The scheduled doesn’t end there.
“We practice from 2:30 until the late afternoon – we want to get it right, especially the freshmen, because there is so much to learn,” Parker added. “After practice, we work with a tutor two days a week, have dinner and then, man, I go to bed. I need my seven hours of sleep a night.”
The 6-foot-3 defensive lineman is up to 260 pounds of lean muscle, and he marvels when he looks around the Tigers’ locker room.
“In high school, there were guys I knew I could dominate because of my size and speed,” said Parker, who arguably had the most successful two-way campaign in the history of Blue Springs football. “But here, you better be ready to go.
“I mean, you have to know the playbook, you have to get bigger, stronger, faster because everyone here had the type of success I had in high school. If you’re not working 24/7, you’re not going to be successful.”
Parker started last season at Blue Springs 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 everyone who watched him play.
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 a first-team all-state selection.
He also became the first offensive lineman in the history of the award to win The Examiner’s Offensive Player of the Year award.
As they prepare for Mizzou’s Sept. 1 opener against Tennessee-Martin, Parker is sharing an apartment-like dorm room with three other freshman defensive linemen, and he enjoys the arrangement.
“We’re there for each other, supporting each other, working hard, having a good time,” Parker said. “This summer has been a challenge, and I know the biggest challenge is going to come in the fall, with fall workouts. And you know me, the bigger the challenge, the better I perform.
“And earning a spot on the roster at Missouri is going to be my biggest challenge. I can’t wait to be a Tiger.”