Parker brings toughness into Bucs camp

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The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.)

By RICK BROWN
Lakeland Ledger Staff Writer

TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneer receiver Preston Parker caught a pass during Thursday’s live training camp practice and tried to take it up the sideline.

There, a guy named Quincy Black introduced himself to Parker, blasting the 6-foot, 200-pound receiver out of bounds.

Parker bounced up and started jawing at Black, who started 13 games at strong-side linebacker in 2009.

“The young man Preston Parker is coming out there and providing a little fire,” said Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris. “He’s showing up in special teams, he’s showing up some at receiver, and he’s showing up with his toughness type of plays.”

The undrafted former Florida State receiver has been making quite an impression around One Buccaneer Place.

Parker’s toughness has never been questioned. Neither has his playmaking ability.

His decision-making, however, had not been Parker’s strong point while he was at college.

After his third brush with the law, he was dismissed from Florida State in 2009, following his arrest for suspected DUI. Parker was also arrested in 2006 for petty theft and again in 2008 on gun and drug charges. He had a loaded gun in his car and police found a bag of marijuana.

After being dismissed from FSU, Parker could have returned home to Delray Beach. Instead, he was taken in at Division II North Alabama by Terry Bowden, the son of former FSU coach Bobby Bowden.

It was his final chance. This time, he didn’t disappoint.

At North Alabama, he had 52 catches for 789 yards and six touchdowns. More importantly, he was a role model off the field, serving on the school’s athletic director advisory council.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Parker said. “It is up to us to learn from our mistakes.”

He knew his shot at being drafted was not good. He just wanted a shot with a team. When Tampa Bay called, Parker was ecstatic.

“It was a blessing,” Parker said. “When I got the call, I was shocked. Now, I am trying to go out and take advantage of this opportunity.”

Despite being undrafted, Parker did enough in rookie camp to earn an invitation to the club’s training camp.

“Preston Parker has been impressing me since (offseason workouts),” said receivers’ coach Eric Yarber. “He’s getting better every day. He has great feet. He has great change of direction. And what I like about him even more than his athletic ability is his competitiveness. He competes ’til the end. It’s like he has a chip on his shoulder. He wants to be here. He’s working his tail off.”

Parker is realistic. He knows his odds of making the team is a long-shot. He knows he blew a chance of being drafted and making guaranteed money. But that’s in the past. He’s doing whatever it takes to try to make the 53-man roster – even if it means talking a little noise to the starting linebacker.

“I don’t know if he’s picking with the right people on defense but he’s providing fire,” Morris said. “I don’t know if you want to go picking on Quincy Black too much but you have to love the young man’s mojo. You have to love his fire. You have to love his nasty he comes to the game with. Those guys are pushing each other and they’re getting strong.”

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