Matt Napier could see it.
Napier, Callaway’s offensive coordinator, remembered watching Tez Parks as a freshman and thinking he had the makings of a special player.
“He got in some games and played quarterback. We knew he was going to be special back then,” Napier said. “The way he works, the way he manages what we do. He’s a great play-maker. He’s got a lot of those intangibles you look for. You saw them early on, with him making plays at a young age.”
Napier’s assessment was right on the money.
Parks played occasionally at quarterback his first two years while his brother, Ricky Parks, was the starter.
By his junior season, Tez Parks was established as the starter, and he was ready.
Parks had a stellar junior season in helping the Cavaliers go 10-2 and reach the second round of the state playoffs, and he’s been even better this year.
Parks is the ideal guy to run Napier’s option offense.
He’s a formidable runner with the power to take on opposing linebackers, and the speed to leave defensive backs in his tracks.
He has also developed into a superb, efficient passer who makes big plays, while rarely throwing interceptions.
“He’s made a few mistakes here and there, and he’s learned from them,” Napier said. “He keeps getting better. The more repetition you have, the better you get. And his work ethic, he shows up every day, he’s at every camp I want him to go to. He’s at every workout. He’s leading the team in workouts in the summer. He does all the little things I ask him to do. He’s had an outstanding year. I couldn’t be more proud of him.”
Among Parks’ many highlights this season, one play stands above the rest.
In the Cavaliers’ second game against the Troup Tigers, what had been a 19-point lead was down to five points in the fourth quarter.
Parks had been on the bench during the second half with a hip injury, but with the game on the line, he hopped off the bench and trotted on to the field.
On his first play back, Parks kept the ball, and 57 yards later he was in the end zone.
The Cavaliers had momentum back on their side, and they went on to claim a 34-21 victory.
“I told the rest of my team, if they come back, I have to get back in no matter what,” Parks said. “So I had to get back in. And the first play back in, I got a touchdown.”
Napier said that “was a special moment for him.”
“That game got kind of scary,” Napier added. “He had a pretty serious condition on his hip. He fought through some pain and made a play for the team.”
Parks rarely shies away from contact.
He has the mentality of a running back in that he usually doesn’t slide or run out of bounds, rather he takes a defender head-on, and he often wins that battle.
Parks has been banged up at times this season, but he has remained on the field.
“He’s a tough kid,” Napier said. “When you run the ball like he does, you’ve got to have a hard edge. He definitely has that.”
Parks is the latest in a long line of exceptional quarterbacks at Callaway who have thrived under the tutelage of Napier.
Napier is part of a coaching family that includes his father, long-time Murray County head coach Bill Napier, as well as brothers Kurt Napier and Billy Napier.
Kurt Napier is also an assistant coach at Callaway, and Billy Napier coaches wide receivers at Alabama after serving as the offensive coordinator at Clemson.
Coaching quarterbacks, Napier said, is “kind of in our family.”
“It’s what we grew up doing,” he added. “We’re carrying on that tradition. I really enjoy doing it. I really enjoy the kids I’ve been able to coach over the years. There’s been a lot of play-makers, a lot of coachable kids that have been able to listen, and take what I told them to the field. It’s been pretty special.”
Napier has been the offensive coordinator at Callaway since 2006, and he was the quarterbacks coach in 2005.
At Callaway, Napier has coached quarterbacks Dray Bray, Justin Heard, Quan Bray, Ricky Parks and Tez Parks.
All five men were all-region players, and two of them, Quan Bray and Ricky Parks, are playing at Auburn, albeit at different positions.
“We’ve had several good guys,” Napier said. “Now Tez is carrying on in that tradition.”
Quarterbacks can’t do it by themselves, of course, and Parks has all sorts of weapons around him.
His fullback, Devon Rosser, is a power runner who also has the speed to out-race just about any defender.
Running backs Eddie Culpeper and Cedric Maynard have also ripped off yards in big chunks this season.
And while the Cavaliers are primarily a running team, they have made a lot of big plays in the passing game, especially when Terry Godwin is involved.
Godwin, a junior who is being recruited by some of the most prominent college programs in the country, is Parks’ favorite target, and he usually makes something spectacular happen when he catches the ball.
In a big win over Central-Carroll, Godwin had a 91-yard touchdown catch.
He out-jumped his defender at midfield, and when he landed he turned and left the Central defenders in his dust.
“He’s got exceptional hands,” Napier said of Godwin. “If you get it close, he’s got great body control, too. You get it close to a guy like that, he’s going to make a play.”
Napier said Parks has made great strides in his ability to put the ball where it needs to be.
“Last year, he struggled passing the ball a little bit,” Napier said. “He’s improved his completion percentage and all that, and his touchdown to interception ratio is 15 to two or something like that.”
It also helps to have an effective offensive line that has been moving defensive linemen out of the way with ease this season.
Senior Brandon Sutton, who has committed to Kennesaw State, headlines the offensive line.
Other linemen include Courtney Laye, Josh Williams, Devin Powell and Harley Taber.
“The offensive line is where it starts. They’re making holes,” Rosser said. “They give us a hole, we’re going to run through it. That’s what coach says. They give us a hole, we’re going to pop it.”
While the Cavaliers are blessed with so much talent on offense, there’s no question the key player is Parks.
“He’s done really well,” Napier said. “And for us to make a playoff run, for us to beat Henry County Friday night, he’s got to continue to do the things that he’s been doing.”