Though he is just 27 years old, Kyle Parker feels a little old. Why? Well, Clemson’s former two-star athlete is returning to Clemson next week to complete his degree, and at the same time will serve as a student assistant coach on the football team.
“It will be weird because I feel like an old man,” Parker said while laughing. “It is like we are old guys that are coming back to coach.”
Parker will be the sixth former player from the 2008-2010 teams to join Dabo Swinney’s staff when he gets on campus next Monday. He will join former teammates Tyler Grisham, Xavier Dye, Thomas Austin, Durrell Barry, DeAndre McDaniel and Miguel Chavis.
“I’m excited because I have not been back to Clemson in a while,” he said. “I don’t really know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to getting started.”
Parker was one of Clemson’s best two-sport athletes in history. In his three years (2008-10) on the baseball team, he hit .302 with 34 doubles, 46 homers, 166 RBIs and 177 runs in 187 games. He was a two-time First-Team All-ACC selection and then was drafted in the first round with the No. 26 overall pick by the Rockies in 2010.
His best football season as a Tiger was in 2009, when he was a freshman All-American and led Clemson to nine wins along with an ACC Atlantic Division title. He set Tiger freshman records for passing yards (2,526) and passing touchdowns (20), which still stand today.
With his 20 home runs in 2010, he became the first Division I athlete in history to total 20 homers and 20 passing touchdowns in the same academic year.
Though he was drafted by the Rockies in the summer of 2010, Parker returned to Clemson to quarterback the Tigers that fall. He threw for another 2,213 yards and 12 touchdowns despite playing the entire season with injured ribs, which he suffered in the season-opener against Auburn.
Parker, who recently retired from baseball after a short stint in the Major Leagues, needs just 38 credit hours to graduate from Clemson with a degree in communications. He plans to graduate from Clemson next May. He is currently taking six hours on-line this summer.
“I have always wanted to come back and finish my degree,” he said. “Ultimately, yeah, I would still love to be playing baseball and having a career, but it was not in my cards. I think I’m fine with that now.”
The relationships Parker built while he was at Clemson are still here, which made his decision to come back to school a little bit easier.
“I have a good relationship with Coach Swinney,” he said. “My dad and my family talk to him and go up there and work some camps so I have connections there. Quite frankly, it’s pretty easy. I think if you look at guys coming off their professional careers that come back to the university there are a lot of us.
“I would have to say that is a credit to Clemson for making it easy and accessible to get back in and also Coach Swinney extending that welcome and creating that family atmosphere. There are guys that have been doing the same thing I’m doing that weren’t recruited or played for Dabo and it was easy for them to get in and the coaching staff welcomed them. So it is nice to see alumni and former players who left to play professionally having that opportunity to come back and finish their education.”
Parker returns to Clemson with one of his former baseball teammates, and good friend, Ben Paulsen. The two plan to share a house together in Clemson while finishing their degrees. Paulsen, who also played in the Majors, will be a student assistant coach on Monte Lee’s staff this coming year as well.
Parker admits it’s going to be weird going back into the classrooms next month and sitting with students who are at least 10 years younger than he is. However, he says he isn’t too worried about getting recognized.
“Fortunately, there have been a couple of superstars in the last seven years in Deshaun Watson and Tajh Boyd that have come after me,” he said.
Parker isn’t sure what his official duties will be on Swinney’s staff. He said he will find that out on Monday. Right now, he is just looking forward to being able to help coach and maybe be a positive influence to some of the players.
“I’m 27 years old, and though I played professionally in a different sport, I feel like I can be a good resource to someone,” he said. “I had a pro career. I know what it is like. Hopefully, they can rely on me and lean on me and draw from my experiences.
“I feel like I grew up around football. I understand schematically the game and I also have a lot of experiences in athletics. Whether it be transitioning from being a college player to professionally and dealing with a lot of those issues and learning how to be a pro. I just think they realize I have some stuff I can interject as well.”
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