Parks catches on with BGSU
Marques Parks went to Bowling Green as a preferred walk-on with no guarantees, but plenty of promise.
Not only has the former South Fayette star earned a scholarship but also a spot in the starting lineup at Z receiver when the Falcons play No. 25 Pitt in the season opener at noon Saturday at Heinz Field.
"It's definitely surreal," Parks said. "At first, when I got here, I was happy to be playing, then happy to get a scholarship. Now, I'm happy to be starting for a Division I program. It's like it has come full-circle."
Parks isn't the only one surprised by his success. He has exceeded the expectations of Bowling Green coach Gregg Brandon, who never imagined the fifth-year senior would play such a prominent role.
"When he came into the program as a walk-on, you don't know how he's going to pan out," Brandon said. "For him to mature in a couple years and earn a scholarship, that's a plus."
It was one of the highlights of Parks' career, and not because he hasn't had his share of on-field success. He accepted an academic scholarship to Bowling Green in order to pursue his dream of playing Division I-A football, and made earning an athletic grant a goal. After a redshirt season, Brandon rewarded Parks with a scholarship.
|Four WPIAL products will play for Bowling Green against No. 25 Pitt in Saturday's season opener at Heinz Field:|
|Player||Class Position||High School||Comment|
|Kenny Lewis||Sr. CB||Penn Hills||Forced 5 fumbles, recovered 3|
|Marques Parks||Sr.* WR||S. Fayette||Averaged 12.9 yards per catch|
|Shane Steffy||Jr.* LG||Riverview||Started 12 games last season|
|Nate Waldron||Sr.* LB||Rochester||Personal protector on punt team|
|* -- indicates redshirt year|
"Just hearing that news (meant) that all my hard work, not only in high school but when I got here, had paid off," Parks said. "I told my parents (Ralph and Kim) when I was younger that I didn't want them to pay for school and that would be my gift back to them for all they did for me. I don't want to say I've been an underdog or underrated, but I feel like I earned everything, and that's the way it should be."
The 5-foot-11, 192-pounder was the team's fourth-leading receiver last season, with 28 catches for 360 yards and five touchdowns. None was more crucial than his 9-yard touchdown reception in overtime at Minnesota that set up the winning two-point conversion for a 32-31 victory in the opener.
For Parks, that play pales in comparison to the touchdown he scored against Temple because his maternal grandfather, Jack Steinhart - one of his strongest supporters - was there to witness it. Now, Parks is anticipating a large contingent of family and friends to attend the Pitt-Bowling Green game, and is hoping to give them a good show.
"It's a little bit more special for me to come home," Parks said. "When you grow up in the Pittsburgh area, it was where you wanted to play. I never had the opportunity. To be able to say I'm going to play college football at Heinz Field means so much, especially in front of my family and friends. This is pretty much a home game for all of them and an away game for me."
Parks is hoping to add some more highlights this season, and will graduate with honors in December with a degree as an exercise specialist.
"He's just a great kid," Brandon said. "He's a great student who has his priorities in order. He'll be successful long after he's done playing football for Bowling Green. That's the kind of guys you want in your program."