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Road to the Celebration Bowl

N.C. A&T’s Brandon Parker is getting noticed by the NFL

And he wants a trip back to the Celebration Bowl to cap his stellar career

There are not many 6-foot-8, 310-pound people who can say they have been “overlooked.” But N.C. A&T State University left tackle Brandon Parker actually had to step out of the shadows to find his spotlight.

Offensive linemen like Parker very rarely gain the same fame as players in such star positions as quarterback, running back or wide receiver. However, that hasn’t stopped Parker from becoming a force on the field — without a single full-time scholarship offer from an FBS school. Don’t be surprised if this two-time Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Offensive Lineman of the Year is one of the first players from a historically black college or university (HBCU) selected in the 2018 NFL draft. Parker is also on the Walter Payton Award Watch List, the listing of the top offensive players in FCS football.

In his hometown of Kannapolis, North Carolina, Parker, 22, played high school football with a future University of Virginia recruit, a future record-breaking running back at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte and a stellar quarterback. However, as any football fan knows, despite the talent at the skill positions, there would be minimal success without a strong offensive line.

He’ll look to continue his stellar career on Saturday, when the Aggies celebrate The Greatest Homecoming on Earth, known as GHOE, Parker’s final homecoming against Delaware State.

North Carolina A&T offensive lineman Brandon Parker (No. 70) warms up during practice near Aggie Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Aug. 24.

Eamon Queeney for The Undefeated

“I want everyone to make it if they can, so if they are getting the shine, that’s fine with me,” Parker said. “As a lineman, I knew I was one of the main reasons those guys were scoring.”

Aggies wide receiver Malik Wilson echoed that Parker is critical to the team’s offense.

“He’s a huge leader. He doesn’t talk too much, but he’s more of the type of person who is going to lead by example,” Wilson said. “The way he plays on the field is always 100 percent effort; it’s always 100 percent, ‘I got to make this play.’ ”

Parker has embraced the importance of his behind-the-scenes role in an offense. He chose A&T after receiving offers to play football from other FCS schools such as North Carolina Central University and Winston-Salem State University. The main reason he took his talents from Kannapolis to Greensboro was his sister, Jasmine Parker. She played for the school’s basketball team at the time.

Brandon Parker (left) blocks defensive lineman Artavious Richardson as they run drills during practice near Aggie Stadium in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Aug. 24.

Eamon Queeney for The Undefeated

In the four years that followed, Parker became an electrical engineering major. He also helped his football team to a MEAC championship in 2015, a Celebration Bowl championship in 2015 and two black college football All-American selections. Now, in his senior year, Parker and the Aggies are currently undefeated in the MEAC.

North Carolina A&T offensive line coach Ron Mattes says Parker’s legacy as an Aggie will be rivaled by few and he believes Parker has all the tools to be successful at the next level.

“He will be one of if not the best offensive lineman to ever come through here,” Mattes said. “It’s amazing how good his footwork has become over the last few years. If you turn on an NFL film, I say it to my guys all the time, ‘Guys, watch your feet.’ ”

Parker attributes his skills and successes to his supportive family.

“I’m consistently having to ask for other tickets from teammates because they are always trying to travel as much as they can to support me,” Parker said. “With support like that, you never want to let up and let your family down.”

After all, he grew up in a dedicated sports family. His mother, Regina Parker, played basketball for the University of North Carolina as a walk-on. His father, George Curtis Parker III, earned a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina as a left tackle. It was no surprise that Parker embraced athletics at an early age.

Offensive lineman Brandon Parker poses for a photograph on the field of Aggie Stadium at North Carolina A&T in Greensboro, North Carolina, on Aug. 24.

Eamon Queeney for The Undefeated

He credits his father as the main influence in pushing him to become the player and person he is today. Parker’s dad coached football for years and shared blocking techniques and other tips with his son. Parker, on the other hand, recalls being nagged repeatedly about improving his coordination by jumping rope. Years later, Parker acknowledges that he was just being “boneheaded” (his term for stubborn). Once he actually followed his father’s advice, he saw a significant improvement in his agility and footwork.

“I guess when you are younger, you are kind of in that rebellious stage; sometimes you might not like to hear what he has to say,” Parker said. “But now since you get older, and you get a little wiser, I respect a lot more what he says. And it’s not necessarily an ‘OK, I hear you,’ but it’s like, ‘Tell me more.’ ”

Since joining the Aggies, Parker has come a long way from the overlooked, self-proclaimed “big kid on the block” from Kannapolis. He traded in “boneheaded” to become one of the best offensive linemen in the MEAC and one of the top HBCU prospects in the 2018 NFL draft.

While he is excited about both his legacy and his future, Parker is keeping his eye on the goals that are directly in front of him: getting the Aggies an outright MEAC championship, unlike the one they shared in 2015, and a trip to the Celebration Bowl.

“I try not to buy into it too much because I still have goals here I have to accomplish. I still haven’t accomplished the outright MEAC championship, so I’m really trying to press all that post-college stuff at the end of the season when it is time to make that transition,” Parker stated. “But for right now, my main focus is to take it one week at a time and try to win every game as it gets here so that way we can reach the ultimate team goal we all set.”

Donovan Dooley is multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.