Heading into the 2008 football season running back Nicholas Parker was a name known primarily to people in Mississippi that closely follow the powerhouse program of Batesville (Miss.) South Panola. Nationally, Parker was not a household name to recruitniks.
It's not as if Parker was a no-name heading into the season. He rushed for over 900 yards last year as a sophomore in helping South Panola extend its nation-leading win-streak and win another state championship. However with Darius "Tig" Barksdale as the starter at running back, Parker spent most of his time in the shadows.
Barksdale rushed for a Mississippi class 5A rushing record with over 2,900 yards and 38 touchdowns while missing two games his senior year. But whenever he needed a blow, Parker stepped in and gave flashes of the ability that was to come in the future for South Panola. Despite the limited action, Parker never had a problem taking the backseat as an underclassman.
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"It wasn't so bad," Parker said. "You would like to be out there a lot of the time but it wasn't bad. Playing with Tig can't do anything but make you better."
This season, Parker has stepped into the spotlight as a junior, and there wasn't a bigger or better coming out party than a nationally televised game against Florida 6A power Apopka. In that game, the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder rushed for 243 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. It was an impressive coming out party.
"It was one of the biggest games of my career," Parker said. "It was my O-line. You can't do nothing without my O-line. We were excited about it but we just played like it was a regular game not like it was on TV."
Parker's success has continued since that win against Apopka. In another televised game, South Panola extended its win streak to 81 games with a 21-13 win over Olive Branch two weeks ago and Parker powered in two touchdowns in that contest. He is already well over 1,000 yards on the season.
At 6-1, 205 pounds, Parker is a big back with quick feet and a downhill mentality. He proved against Apopka that he has breakaway ability and against Olive Branch he did his damage in short yardage situations. All of his natural ability is why his success this season is not a complete surprise.
"I was kind of expecting [the success] because I knew I had to step up and take a very responsible spot and pick up where Tig left off," he said.
Parker is yet to see his first written scholarship offer arrive but he is getting recruited by several major programs.
"A lot of schools send me letters," he said. "I just want to play for a Division I university. I'm just not thinking about who right now. Auburn, Southern Miss, Ole Miss, people like that are showing me interest."
One school that Parker hopes shows him some interest is a program that doesn't often recruit the state of Mississippi.
"I'm a good fan of the Texas Longhorns," he said. "I always liked them. I don't know why. I've always liked them and Vince Young."
With Texas' tradition of big backs, Parker would fit in very nicely in Austin but before he begins thinking about colleges he has a junior season to think about as well as a nation-leading win streak.
"Every team we play, it gets harder and harder every year," Parker said of the streak. "They're all gunning for us."