Sean Parker is an emotional football player, maybe more so than most. “Emotional” is the polite way to put it, anyway.
Keith Price had another description for Parker, a senior safety for Washington.
“He was a hothead,” said Price, UW’s senior quarterback.
Parker’s heated, emotional style — whatever you want to call it — still tends to come out on game days, and that’s usually not good news for opposing ball carriers. One would not describe what he does on the field as polite.
The nickname “K.O.” was given to Parker at Narbonne High School in Los Angeles, and it’s as appropriate as ever for the captain of UW’s secondary. Last season, in what Parker agreed was the biggest hit of his career, he knocked Oregon State receiver Markus Wheaton out of the game, forcing an interception and setting the stage for the Huskies’ upset of the No. 7 Beavers.
“It stuck with me,” he said of the nickname. “I like it.”
Price liked what he saw from his former roommate in the Huskies’ season-opening 38-6 victory over Boise State. That it was Parker who came up with an early interception didn’t surprise Price, who was tormented by Parker with an interception seemingly every day in training camp last month.
“He had my number in camp, man,” Price said.
Against Boise State, Parker, the deepest defender in a cover-3 zone, knew UW cornerback Greg Ducre was playing press coverage against his receiver, and Parker was certain Bronco quarterback Joe Southwick would take a shot in that direction.
“He knew what defense we were in,” Parker said of Southwick, “but I knew what he was trying to do.”
After a 20-yard sprint, Parker intercepted the pass near the sideline at the UW 16-yard line, setting the stage once again for what ended up being one of the more impressive UW defensive performances in recent memory.
Parker’s mom, Rosslyn, knew what was coming, too. From her Husky Stadium seat in the first row behind the UW sideline, she had a sense of what was about to happen when Southwick floated the pass toward the far sideline.
“Oh, I was already on my feet,” she said. “I was like, ‘Get it! Get it!’?”
Parker got there, of course. A few hours earlier, though, Rosslyn wasn’t so sure she would get to Husky Stadium in time for kickoff. The bus she took from Los Angeles that had left a day earlier, on Friday morning, had broken down twice during the long trip.
She arrived in Seattle about three hours before the Saturday-night kickoff against Boise State. Her son’s interception, and the Huskies’ rousing 38-6 victory, made the trip worth the effort.
“Everything was awesome,” she said. “I was just excited for the whole program.”
Rosslyn raised Sean and her two other boys mostly on her own. Sean still keeps in touch with his father, Darren Parker, a former minor-league pitcher in the Atlanta Braves system.
“It was kind of hard, her being the only lady, with no father figure, but she did well,” Sean said. “She’s a strong lady.”
She said her middle son has always been strong-willed, and a strong and determined — and angry — competitor.
“He’s always been like that,” she said. “He hates to lose — always hated to lose, even in Pop Warner.”
That emotion, that anger, spilled onto the practice field early in Parker’s UW career. UW coach Steve Sarkisian even sent Parker off the field during one practice a couple years ago because Parker was being so reckless in tackling his teammates.
Yes, Parker can admit now, he was a hothead then.
“When I first got here, it was all fun,” he said. “I was here to experience college. Now I know the severity of competing in the classroom and on the field and how critical it is.”
He says he’s grown up, and some of that is reflected in how early he gets up — by 6 a.m. most days.
“That’s the time when I focus my mind, thinking about what I have to do today,” he said. “The ability to focus your mind on one thing and master that, I think, is huge. I’ve gotten better at that in my years here.”
He’s on track to earn his degree next spring — he would be the first in his family to do so — after earning a 3.4 grade-point average last spring in his sociology and American ethnic studies. That earned him a spot on the list of the team’s top 10 GPAs that Sarkisian displays on the door outside his office.
“I’m really proud of Sean, with everything he came from to where he is today,” Sarkisian said. “He’s on track to graduate. He’s an All-Pac-12-type performer for us at safety; I think he will be by the end of the season. He’s a playmaker. He’s got an intimidating factor in the back end.
“You know he is going to hit you if you come around there.”