Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Preston Parker makes Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 'deadliest catches'

Bucs receiver Preston Parker outruns Saints cornerback Tracy Porter for a second-quarter touchdown Sunday, one of his two TD receptions this season, both on third-down plays.

Getty Images

Bucs receiver Preston Parker outruns Saints cornerback Tracy Porter for a second-quarter touchdown Sunday, one of his two TD receptions this season, both on third-down plays.

BAGSHOT, England — As dangerous jobs go, it's not like he's a crab fisherman on the Bering Sea, an ice road trucker or even a logger. But on the football field, Preston Parker makes the deadliest catches as a kick returner and third-down specialist.

Last week on third and 7 from the Tampa Bay 30, Parker ran a sideline route toward the New Orleans bench and caught a facemask full of Saints cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.

But when you've been thrown out of Florida State, tried to resurrect your career at Division I-AA North Alabama, been bypassed in the NFL draft, won a job at a rookie tryout and now volunteer to do the dirty work, what's going to intimidate you?

Fearless is the word that has been used to describe Parker, 24, who mostly works the middle of the football field. In fact, 12 of his 19 catches this season have come on third down, including both touchdowns, and 201 of his 268 receiving yards.

"It started with special teams a year ago when you really started to see his toughness, especially returning," general manager Mark Dominik said. "That's why (coach) Raheem (Morris) put him over on defense, and he got a snap on defense last year because of how physical the kid is. And I still hear him joke around, 'Don't forget me on defense.'

"But you love that mentality of him, and then he's got a certain fearless mentality that you have to have if you're going to play inside and go across the middle."

At 5 feet 11, 200 pounds and tough as a truck-stop steak, Parker has never understood all the fuss about his physical nature.

"That's just how I've always played and how we always played where I'm from in Delray Beach," Parker said. "When I went to college and people asked, 'Do you run between the tackles?' I was like, 'What do you mean?' I didn't know what they were talking about. I was like, 'If that's what you call it, I'll do it.' It's just regular to me, just second nature. I just try to make someone miss. If that's fearless, I guess I am."

Parker is also not afraid to ask questions. At One Buc Place, his locker is next to Earnest Graham, who has become a friend and mentor. Like Parker, Graham took the hard road to a career that has lasted eight seasons. He wasn't drafted, endured being cut four times by the Bucs, played special teams, fullback — anything necessary.

"He asks a ton of questions," Graham said. "He brings up these scenarios. What if this and that. So I enjoy being able to give him my experiences, mostly off the field, and help him along.

"A guy like Preston Parker, he has no trouble on the football field. … But sometimes as a football player, you can have the same mentality in football as you have off the field. So for him, I've talked to him about being able to balance yourself off the field."

Parker's story is well-documented: three arrests involving weapons charges, drugs and driving under the influence ended his promising career with the Seminoles after his junior year. He salvaged what he could of his career at North Alabama but was bypassed in the NFL draft. He took roles from injured receiver Sammie Stroughter and kick returner Micheal Spurlock.

"I love the journey I came from. I wouldn't take it back," Parker said.

"Say I'm tired or say I have to go from special teams right to zebra, which is three wide. Or from three wide, straight to punt returns. The journey will kick in and I'll think, 'You went a long way, man, so just take it. Look how far you've come, so don't complain.' That keeps me driven."

Preston Parker makes Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 'deadliest catches' 10/20/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 20, 2011 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' O.J. Howard ends big day with BP, first pitch for Rays


    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard is known for his athleticism at 6-foot-6, 251-pounds. As an outfielder, he took his Autuaga Academy High School baseball team to the state tournament in Alabama as a junior.

    On Monday, after a little instruction from Steven Souza, Jr., the left-handed hitting Howard started making …

  2. Arm problems in the past, USF rides pitching into AAC baseball tournament


    TAMPA — By his second relief inning in last year's season opener, USF right-hander Ryan Valdes had lost the fizz on his fastball.

    USF senior right-hander Ryan Valdes, an Alonso High alumnus, is one of three prominent Bulls pitchers flourishing after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. [USF Athletics]
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes Bucs weapons, believes he's a good fit


    Ryan Fitzpatrick’s experience playing for six other NFL teams is what made him attractive to the Bucs as a backup to starter Jameis Winston. But if he has to play, the former Jets quarterback is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Angels and Trout, with Odorizzi on mound


    After losing Sunday's game but winning a third straight series, the Rays open a four-game series tonight against the Angels and Mike Trout.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, RHP J.C. Ramirez for the Angels.

    Evan Longoria is getting a DH day, so the Rays have rookie Daniel …

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.
  5. Lightning's Swedes live their dream in Worlds


    You could see it in his face.

    Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman screamed as he hoisted the World Championship trophy Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany, and it looked like an exhale that was years in the making. Stralman kissed the forehead of Swedish teammate Joel Lundqvist, the joy unmistakable.

    Victor Hedman of Sweden celebrate with his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the gold-medal game against Canada.