CHANDLER, Ariz. – Hamilton High coach John Wrenn has been around some talented players in his more than 30 years of coaching both high school and college football. He’s worked with NFL stars like Rodney Harrison and Terrell Suggs, so when he says his two junior stars Kerry Taylor and Colin Parker have it, he knows what he’s talking about.
“They’re both perfect kids – both on and off the field,” Wrenn said. “They are everything that you want your kids to be like. They’re intelligent, great in the classroom, amazing athletes and they have that special something that makes people around them rise up to another level.
“I can’t even begin to describe how lucky I have to have two kids like this that are one in a million.”
And just like those rare finds, both Taylor and Parker have unique abilities and different success stories.
Taylor has football in his blood. His dad played in the NFL for 10 years as a defensive back and an athlete and his uncle is San Francisco 49er legend John Taylor. Football is definitely pumping through his veins.
Like his father and uncle, Taylor has good size at 6-foot-1 and 170 pounds. He also is explosive enough he’ll probably be recruited on both sides of the football as a receiver and a cornerback.
“Kerry is very gifted athlete,” Wrenn said. “He’s a great playmaker. He’s returned a couple punts for us. He has it. He’ll play at a high level of Division I football, and he has the ability to make plays on that next level.”
But what separates Taylor from others is that he’s also humble, quiet and an excellent student off the field. He’s also soaked like a sponge up every bit of advice his father and uncle gave him, and that’s made him a better player.
“They both taught me that talent only takes you so far,” Taylor said. “The rest of it is how hard you work and how bad you want it. When you get to the next level, everybody has talent, but you have to work harder than everybody else.
“That’s why it’s important for me to make sure to all the little things right – run good routes, pay attention in class, work hard in the off season or make sure that you do the extra credit in class. You have to work harder than anybody else if you want to reach your dreams.”
And he will if you ask his coach.
“I think he’s an athlete that has the ability to a very good impact corner if he’s not recruited as a receiver,” Wrenn said.
“He has very good hips, and he’s got all the tools to be something special at corner, but he also is so explosive that you have to get the ball in his hands. He has 10 touchdowns, and he’s hardly played in the second half of any of our games because they’ve all been blow outs.”
When you ask Wrenn about Parker, you instantly see a sparkle in his eye.
He coached Suggs in high school, saw him destroy opponents at Arizona State and knows that he’s now a Pro-Bowl selection for the Baltimore Ravens. So when he heaps praise on Parker and says he has the tools to be in the same league some day as Suggs, you know the kid must be exceptional.
“We’ve never had a kid as a freshman come up and play on the varsity,” Wrenn said about Parker, who has 44 tackles and two sacks so far this seas.
“He was brought up on varsity baseball as a freshman and won a state championship ring. He was a starter for us as a sophomore and won a state championship ring. As a sophomore he started in baseball and got his second ring in that sport.
“He blows you away with how amazing he is.”
Parker, who is 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, plays linebacker on the high school level, but he could project at a number of different spots in college.
“I call him a hybrid,” Wrenn said. “He can play defensive back and linebacker. He’s just a great smart kid. This kid could go anywhere the country, and he’ll likely be a high-round baseball pick and play that professionally.
“He can go back in the secondary and cover, but he’s also strong and physical enough to come up and play on the line. He can be physical and take on the blocks. I’ve worked with a lot of big time guys, people like Rodney Harrison and Terrell Suggs, and this kid has just as much if not more potential than both those guys.”
An outfielder in baseball, Parker has thought about what it would be like to play both sports in college. He doesn’t know what he’ll do if he gets drafted as high as some local experts think he might.
“I really don’t have a first love,” Parker said. “It’s kind of like whatever season I’m in, I’ll like that sport. I always look forward to the other sport that I’m not playing, too. I’m already looking forward to baseball during football season. And during baseball, I’m looking forward to football. I never really liked one better than the other. It’s always just move on to the next season and keep going and going.
“I really haven’t thought about the draft. I think about college, and if I could go for both baseball and football. That’d be a whole another situation that I’d have to look at, especially if I was a high draft pick. If I was a low round guy – like in the 25th round – then I’d probably just go do both sports in college.
“I think for me college football would be a lot better. I’m looking forward to college. If I went and played baseball only, I would always be thinking about football in the back of my mind.”
While Parker and Taylor are dramatically different players on the field and both took different paths to get to where they’re at now, it’s not surprising they’ve both gravitated toward each other and become good friends. When they’re not at practice, they’re hanging out with each other playing X-Box, PlayStation, poker and doing typical teenager things.
You can tell by talking to them there is a mutual respect for each other and they both know they can count on each other to do what it takes to help their team win – and that’s exactly what they’ve done this season as Hamilton is 8-0 and ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation in one high school poll.
“Colin is just a playmaker that makes big plays,” Taylor said. “He’s one of the hardest workers on the team. He always gives it his all and gets to the ball. He’s always flying around doing the right thing.”
Parker also respects Taylor’s game.
“He’s got really quick moves off the line especially,” Parker said. “He’s good at making people miss. Most of the time, we don’t get to go against each other too much. He won’t come across the middle my way, though. I wish he would, because he knows what would happen.”
Taylor laughs and suggests they test Parker’s theory later that day in practice.
The two friends then smile at each other and start to talk about what their futures hold. Both know they will be heavily recruited and they’re both excited and nervous about what is about to happen over the next 12 moths.
“I don’t want to narrow things down early,” Parker said. “I want to keep my options open. I’ve always liked ASU because my dad went there and they’re the local school. But I don’t really have a college preference.
“I haven’t thought about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I still have some time to think about things like that.”
Taylor is a little surer about the schools that are already starting to covet him.
“I’m getting a lot of letters already,” he said. “Teams like ASU, Cal and UofA are sending me stuff all the time. I’d like to maybe be a personal trainer or open up a sports store like my dad. I definitely want to enjoy the recruiting process and focus on a school that will help me achieve my goals both in football and in academics.”
That success in both football and academics is something Wrenn talked about quite a bit when giving even more reasons as to why the star juniors stood out from the rest of their class. He said it’s the completeness in everything they do that makes them more distinctive.
“You’re not going to find two better people than Kerry and Colin,” Wrenn said. “They’ve both been given a great gift to be good athletes and great football players. But they’re so much more than that. When I tell you that they have it, believe me they do.
“They’re the real deal.”