West Stokes Gavin Parker has come a long way since his flag football days when he was seven years old. The senior recently signed a letter of intent to play football at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, N.C.
“I enjoy everything about it. It’s the best game in the world. There’s nothing better than going out and hearing the pads pop and the thud of the ball hit your hands,” Parker said.
While at West, the athlete has played football, basketball, and last week qualified to run in the 4×400 relay at the NCHSAA Track and Field State Championship Meet.
“I’ve made a bunch of great memories that I’ll cherish the rest of my life,” he said. “I think playing other sports has helped me progress as a player on the football field.”
Parker said one of the memories he’ll take with him from high school is winning the WPAC football conference championship his senior season in a thrilling 21-20 game against Carver.
“It’s far greater than anything I’ve done as an individual. To win as a team and to have that with all your brothers and coaches is pretty special. I’ve been with the same guys for seven years and they’re like family to me.”
Parker played key roles in the Wildcats success this season.
In the conference opener against North Surry he pulled in two interceptions.
“I got bounced around like a pin ball,” he joked. “But being down and then coming back to win that game against such a potent offense like they have really helped us to get ready to play. We knew it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk going in, but to come out and have somebody play you hard like that set the tone for the rest of the season.”
Parker credits head coach Jimmy Upchurch for his influence and position coach Michael Grayson for leaving a lasting impression on his young life.
“Coach Grayson really helped me and he’s been like the dad of our football team. I’ve appreciated him since my freshman year,” he said.
But it’s been Parker’s parents who’ve helped propel him to play at the next level.
“My dad has spent countless hours just throwing with me”, he said. “Both my parents really pushed me in school to keep my grades up so I could get into college to keep playing. They’ve always told me there was nothing I couldn’t do and that really motivated me.”
Upchurch said Parker will be hard to replace and described him as a tough, competitive kid.
“He’s very fiery and he brought that to the table. He has this attitude of we’re going to win and we’re going to get after people.”
The coach said the athlete continued to mature throughout his time at West and became a leader many could depend on.
Parker’s parents, Daniel and Karen are proud of what their son’s accomplished on the field and in the classroom.
“He has a passion for the game. He’s been 100 percent dedicated to it. We’ve always believed he could do anything he set his mind to, and I think he believed it too,” his father said.
Amanda Dodson can be reached at 336-813-2426 or on Twitter at AmandaTDodson.