Parker can put on a show
By FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency
|Argonauts cornerback Byron Parker is mobbed by teammates after intercepting a pass by Stampeders quarterback Henry Burris and returning it for a touchdown at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ont., Oct. 14, 2011. (FRED THORNHILL/Reuters)
TORONTO - To say Byron Parker is the closest to resembling Deion Sanders in three-down football is not a stretch.
It would be foolish for anyone to even believe Parker is as good as Prime Time because he’s not, and the truth be told no one alive falls into Sanders’ elite category, but one play and one moment of celebration connected the Argos defensive back with the hall of famer.
It was a moment Argos fans must cherish and an achievement the CFL should recognize, a moment where Parker emulated Sanders with a touchdown dance, the ultimate show of respect for a guy who set the football bar when it comes to play makers on defence.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity to do it,” Parker said of touchdown dance after he returned his ninth career pick six during Toronto’s bizarre win over the Blue Bombers on Friday, an interception return that established a CFL record.
In the past, Parker would join his teammates in a touchdown sequence known as the “bomb.’’
With so many new faces in the lineup, Parker decided to evoke images of Sanders.
While not quite as artistic, it was the perfect way to set a record given the status Sanders still has in today’s game, regardless of geography and quirky rules.
In his prime, Parker was the ultimate play maker for the Argos, capable of returning any interception for a touchdown and being able to return punts and kickoffs.
Now 30 and one game away from wrapping up his seventh season in the CFL, all as an Argo except for a brief and completely unnecessary stint in Edmonton, Parker remains relevant because of his knowledge, experience and humility.
With so much changes looming in the off-season, there should always be a place for Parker.
Much like the team saw fit to move Jordan Younger from the secondary to linebacker two years ago, Parker’s unique skill set and recognition must be coveted.
When Parker auditioned for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles in 2009, they asked him to bulk up in an attempt to play safety.
Parker would eventually get released — in part to make room for the arrival of Michael Vick — return to the Argos, but then head coach Bart Andrus and his staff never comprehended the impact Parker could have on games.
What Parker has evolved into is an all-time player on anyone’s list who understands football.
Even after establishing a league milestone, Parker remained humble and respectful to the many who helped him along the way and nurtured him.
Remarkably, Parker never played football in high school at a time when basketball appeared to be his calling.
When a coach such as Rich Stubler took a chance on Parker, there were guys as Younger who began to impart wisdom and encouragement.
“I know records don’t happen very often,’’ Parker continued. “But it’s still a testament to my teammates, coaches, my former teammates, my parents and the lord.
“I wouldn’t be here without all of them. I’m just another guy out there trying to play. And I appreciate everybody and everything everyone has done for me.”
The one guy who sticks out most for Parker is Younger, the consummate pro who lined up at safety in Winnipeg when injuries forced the Argos to move Willie Pile to starting linebacker.
In his younger days as an Argo, every move Younger made, Parker would duplicate, every word absorbed and every action appreciated.
“Everything he did, everything he told me, I copied,’’ Parker said. “I guess that’s why people confuse us. J.Y. is one of the main guys.”
You can add Parker to the list.