Brandon Parker

Junios Smith | April 26th, 2018
Brandon Parker (Photos by Mykel Media Company)

Brandon Parker (Photos by Mykel Media Company)

It may be hard to believe that a vital member of North Carolina A&T’s offensive line had to fight for minutes while playing football at A.L. Brown High School, a perennial powerhouse in western North Carolina.

During Brandon Parkers’ four years there, the Wonders went a combined 45-11 and made it to the third round each season. Parker would have his opportunities but said there was plenty of competition in house. “We had so much talent on the team that I didn’t play as much my junior year,” Parker said. “There were a lot of great players and it was definitely intense.”

During his senior campaign, Parker was a strong reason for the Wonders averaging 287 rushing yards per game, yet he didn’t receive a lot of scholarships. The Aggies did show interest early and Parker took the opportunity.

“I didn’t have a whole lot of offers, but one of them was A&T,” Parker said. “I fell in love with the school and wanted to do my part for the team.”

After redshirting his freshman year, Parker defended the blind side for A&T and started all 12 games. His play warranted a third-team All-MEAC selection and would be the start of what would become a stellar career. Parker would start every game in his college career and become a first-team all-conference selection from 2015 through 2017. The Associated Press would also name Parker as a second-team FCS All-American his junior year and first team as a senior.

Along the way, the Aggies would finish 40-8 during Parker’s time there, including three MEAC regular-season titles and two Celebration Bowl wins. Parker would lead the team in pancake blocks three years straight and also helped star running back Tarik Cohen break the school’s single-season rushing record in 2016 with 1,583 yards. The Aggies also threw the ball well with Parker protecting the blind side, and Lamar Raynard completed 64.6 percent of his passes that same year, the highest completion percentage in A&T history. Raynard would also lead the MEAC in completion percentage and passing efficiency at 140.8.

Following a 9-3 in 2016, Parker said he felt confident about 2017 despite Cohen being drafted in the fourth round by the Chicago Bears in the NFL.

“I could definitely see the changes from my freshman year,” Parker said. “Over the past few years, we’ve been doing our part to build up the program and continue putting up winning seasons. The coaches did a great job getting us prepared for 2017 as well. We knew we had lost Tariq but felt confident enough to have a great year.”

The Aggies didn’t miss a beat offensively despite losing the school’s only 5,000-yard career rusher in Cohen. A&T would average 36.4 points per game with 48 total touchdowns. A&T averaged 6.6 yards per play and 429.5 per game on the way to a perfect season, capped off with a 21-14 win over Grambling on Dec. 16 in the Celebration Bowl, taking the black college national championship in the process. Raynard would break his own completion percentage with 65.3, throwing for 2,707 yards and 26 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions. Marquell Cartwright would also step into Cohen’s shoes and perform admirable, gaining 1,190 yards on the ground with 14 touchdowns.

Parker was never called for a sack in his career and only had four penalties. In 2017, the Aggies was the top team in the MEAC in terms of third down

conversion, total first downs, rushing offense, scoring offense, fewest tackles for a loss allowed, fewest sacks allowed, and total offense.

With the NFL Draft looming from April 26-28, Parker has been getting plenty of notoriety. The 6-foot-7, 309 pound left tackle has been projected as high as a fourth-round draft pick by NFL analyst Lance Zierlein. Parker was taught technique by his father, Curtis, who played on the offensive line for North Carolina and coached high school. Parker said he’s thankful for what his father taught him and believes it would be a big asset in the NFL.

According to an analysis on NFL.com, “Parker’s high center of gravity creates some athletic challenges for him, but he possesses the physical traits that teams are willing to draft and coach up. Despite his college experience, Parker is a bit of a project who will need to continue to work on his technique and core strength before he is ready to handle NFL pass rushers. Parker plays a high priority position with a limited talent pool this season and should go earlier than the tape dictates.” The website also lists strengths for Parker such as well-timed punches to distract pass rushers, his smooth look when pulling or moving in space, an ability to be adept at using his length to aid in block recovery, and ability to sink hips and redirect weight to adjust to a moving target at the second level.

Parker said he’s thankful for the additional notoriety, something he’s worked for since high school, but is a bit surprised by it.

“It feels good, but it’s a bit awkward to have this type of recognition,” Parker said. “I had been overlooked for so long, so to be seen as a draft prospect is

great, but I also know I put in a lot of work to reach this level. It started at A.L. Brown — I think we have one of the top weightlifting programs in the state (in terms of high school) — and it played a big role for me.”

Overall, Parker said he might’ve been overlooked in the past, but the experience made him a stronger player in the process. Parker has grown from having trouble garnering playing time at A.L. Brown to starting every game as an Aggie while helping to maintain a stellar offense. “Sometimes things may not go the way you think they should, but where you’re at is not the end,” Parker said. “You have to make the best out of everything and if you continue to work hard it’ll all come together.”

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