Great Dane-turned-K.C. Chief living NFL dream
By Aaron Cheris
On Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014, tight end Brian Parker and the University at Albany football team played at Cowell Stadium in New Hampshire and lost 49-24 in front of 3,536 fans.
Exactly one year later on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, Parker made his NFL debut for the Kansas City Chiefs at London’s Wembley Stadium in front of 83,624 fans as the Chiefs defeated the Detroit Lions 45-10.
The year in between has been full of ups and downs for the former Great Dane, and now he is getting the opportunity to live the dream of many Americans.
“I’ve always pictured myself playing in the NFL,” Parker said. “That’s obviously always what I wanted to do.”
During the Chiefs bye week following their game in London, Parker and his agent Kevin Gold, also a UAlbany graduate, returned to campus to speak at an Albany Sports Business Organization meeting on Thursday night.
The duo spoke of how they met a few years ago while Parker was a student. Their relationship has carried over to the NFL, where Parker was the third Great Dane to play in a regular season game.
“I had the opportunity to come back to campus last year and give a speech about sports business and getting a job that you’re passionate about,” Gold, a member of the class of 1989, said. “While I was doing that speech, Brian Parker was in the audience. I knew a little bit about him, talked to him afterwards, and I was fortunate enough to have him agree to help him on his journey to the NFL.”
During his final year at UAlbany, Parker impressed NFL scouts with his size and skill. After he wasn’t selected in the NFL draft, he signed a free agent contract with the San Diego Chargers in May.
“I chose San Diego because it was the best spot for me roster wise, being undrafted,” Parker said. “I really liked what they had planned for me. I did a workout here with San Diego, so I knew they liked my talent first hand.”
Parker said he thought he was impressive with the Chargers during the preseason. But being impressive couldn’t help him beat the NFL numbers game. When the Chargers cut their roster from 90 to an NFL mandated 53 for the regular season, Parker was one of the casualties.
Before he could sign with the Chargers practice squad, he had to pass through waivers, where all 31 other teams in the NFL would be able to claim him. The Chiefs claimed Parker, and he had to drop everything and move his life to Kansas City.
“I got a call from Kevin and he told me that I’m a Kansas City Chief,” Parker recalled. “I had to get up and go, this is 10 o’clock in the morning. I was planning on being in San Diego, not expecting to move my life away.”
Once he got to the Chiefs, he had to wipe out everything he learned in San Diego and start all over again.
“It was a tough adjustment. Just kind of starting all over. I’m behind everyone,” Parker said of the transition. “But I think I’ve been doing well and learned as much as I can.”
With the Chiefs, Parker made the 53-man roster but wasn’t one of the 45 players who dresses for the game for the first seven weeks of the season. Although he wanted to play, Parker thinks the time on the sideline prepared him for game action.
“I started getting into a rhythm. I’m trying to do everything I can and help the team,” Parker said. “I was a little stressed during the week not having to expect to play on Sunday.”
After a long wait off the field, Parker’s opportunity came calling in London. Once Parker found out he would play in the game, it was a moment of joy for both himself and his agent.
“It was the greatest feeling,” Gold said. “To wake up, to watch a game at 9:30, and see a guy you saw a year ago, just an Albany student, now he’s playing at the highest level, it’s an incredible journey and an incredible story.”
During his first game, Parker didn’t make a catch, but made several key blocks that led to Chiefs touchdowns in the victory over Detroit. Now that he’s had his taste of NFL action, Parker is going to do everything he can to stay in the lineup.
“You could never take a play off. You’re not going to keep your job very long if you’re not giving it your all every chance you get,” Parker said. “In the NFL, they always want guys to keep improving because as soon as you stop, they’ll go to the next guy.”
Parker hopes to be in the lineup for the Chiefs next game when they go to Denver to play the Broncos on Sunday, Nov. 15.