Any Wildcats football fan who watched Daniel Parker’s senior year at Blue Springs High School should not be surprised at his great success as a true freshman at the University of Missouri.
Although he played offensive line almost exclusively through the first four games of his all-state senior season at Blue Springs, he came within half a sack of breaking Elijah Lee’s single-single season mark of 17.5 sacks.
So, when he was asked by Mizzou’s coaching staff to move from the defensive line to tight end – a totally new position – he thrived, earning SEC All-Freshman honors. His biggest game came in Mizzou’s bowl-clinching win over Vanderbilt when he had three receptions and his first career touchdown to spark the come-from-behind victory.
He finished his freshman campaign with six receptions for 63 yards and the one touchdown in 12 games, but he really made his mark as a blocker – for both Tiger running backs and receivers.
Again, no surprise as he was the first offensive lineman to win The Examiner’s Offensive Player of the Year Award, while nabbing the Simone Awards committee’s Buck Buchanan Award, which is given to the top lineman or linebacker in the metro area.
“I know that award surprised a lot of people, especially casual fans who really didn’t watch Daniel on the offensive line,” Wildcats coach Kelly 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 – as a player and a person.
“Daniel was a wonderful teammate, 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.”
And now, Parker hopes to earn the same accolades as a Tiger.
He’s spending the summer in Columbia fine-tuning his game and getting ready for what he hopes is a special sophomore campaign.
“Playing at Blue Springs High School – with great coaching like Coach Kelly Donohoe and Coach Derek Wilson – helped me get ready for what I was going to face in college,” Parker said by phone Tuesday afternoon.
“I knew the blocking schemes from high school, and they are similar to our schemes here at Missouri. We won at Blue Springs, and we’re winning at Missouri. And I can’t wait for the upcoming season.
“I’m working hard to fine-tune my game and prevent a sophomore slump. I’ve had a lot of time to get ready for this season and I’m just so excited. I’m catching balls from all our quarterbacks and want to be an important part of our offense.”
While many prep experts raved about Parker’s “soft hands,” the former Wildcat said he is concentrating on all phases of his position in the offseason.
“Anything I can do to help us win – blocking, catching the ball, you name it,” he said. “I’m blessed with God-given talent. I was a multi-sport athlete at Blue Springs and I think playing basketball, football and throwing (the shot and discus) in track helped me become a better all-around athlete.
“And here at Mizzou, I’m getting great coaching, just like I got at Blue Springs. My coaches at Blue Springs prepared me for this, and now it’s my turn to take my game to another level, and that’s what I hope to do this year.
“But none of these things would be possible without God.”