Punter Ken Parrish is one of the guys that fans will pull for at training camp. He grew up 35 miles from Bethlehem, Pa. in East Stroudsburg. A lifelong Eagles fan, Parrish used to come up with his family to sit in the bleachers and watch the team practice at Lehigh University. Now, his family is coming to see him practice with the team. In fact they told him on Tuesday that, "It's weird taking you here when you were a young kid and now watching you run around with them with that Eagles jersey on," Parrish said.
But that's not the only fascinating thing about Parrish's story. He was signed by the 49ers as a rookie free agent in 2007 and was eventually released before the start of the season. He decided to move on with his life and spent eight months training to be police officer with the Stroud Area Regional Police Department in his hometown. He got to ride along on drug busts as he was in his "training camp" so to speak to become one of the men in blue.
But Parrish still had dreams of the NFL. He put the police career on hold and moved to Modesto, Ca. to workout and dedicate himself full-time to becoming an NFL player. The Eagles gave him a tryout earlier in the off-season and signed him to a contract in May. At first, Parrish was ecstatic to have the chance to play for his favorite team. But he also realized that there was business to be done.
"Wow. I'm going to be a Philadelphia Eagle. It's like childhood memories coming back to me, being in the front yard running around," Parrish said when he first signed. "At the same time, it was time to get serious. You have to put in the work, the time, the effort just like these guys are doing on a daily basis. You have to show that you can be a part of the team and that you can do your job."
He's got to beat out Sav Rocca for the punter job. Rocca had a pretty good season in 2008 earning NFC Special Teams Player of the Month honors for September and setting the team's single-season record for net punting average (37.9).
As the only specialist here during the rookie and selected veteran workouts, Parrish had some down time during 7-on-7 drills on Tuesday when he was asked by head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder if he wanted to do conditioning drills with Brian Westbrook, who is rehabbing his ankle injury. Burkholder calls Parrish "Sarge" because of his police background.
After the workout, Parrish couldn't even tell that Westbrook was injured.
"The thing that was going through my mind was, 'I'm running pretty good right now and Westbrook is jogging. This guy is probably pretty fast,'" Parrish said. "I'll tell you, he's got energy that just comes off of him. Just the focus that he has and the determination just to get back and what he wants to do for the organization. I can't even tell (that he's injured). He's such a positive player. He's just going to come back and be better."
As the rest of the veterans report to training camp later today, it'll be time to see if Parrish can be better than Rocca and earn a spot with the team he grew up cheering for.
-- Posted by Chris McPherson, 10:54 a.m., July 28