Parker Walton is no ordinary high school senior — a fisherman, a scholar and one of the best linebackers in the state of Arizona.
He is sporting a cutoff red tank top that reads, “Savage.” His protruding arms are covered in bruises and cuts.
Football is a violent game, but that’s something he embraces.
Standing at 6 feet 2 inches tall, he is hard to miss. Built sturdier than a brick house, his scruffy goatee dangles from his chin.
However, don’t let his humor and calm demeanor fool you: this kid is out for blood.
When asked about his mentality when he steps on the field, Parker responded, “to be honest, just kill kids.” To play linebacker in football, that mindset is somewhat necessary.
Football is a violent game and linebackers are involved in a lot of hitting. Of course, Parker doesn’t have completely free reign, there is still a scheme in place.
After a blowout loss to Horizon High School in week one, the Chaparral Firebirds fired their defensive coordinator. Parker and his teammates were happy to get back to old habits.
“We went back to our old defense, which worked out really well for us last year and all the boys love it,” Parker said.
With a new coach recently implemented, Parker had to step up. First year head coach Thomas Lewis knows he can trust his best player.
“He’s just like a QB on offense, he’s getting everybody in the right position, he knows every single call. He’s durable and flexible, he can play inside, he can play outside. Just because of his leadership and his tenacity for the game, people gravitate and follow that,” Coach Lewis said.
Being a senior, there comes responsibility.
Last year, he relied on a senior to take the lead. Now, it’s his turn.
“This year is definitely different. Last year we had a kid who was just a straight savage. He was kind of my mentor, got me in game mode, ready to play. This year I’m the older guy on the defense though, it’s kind of my job, I don’t have a hype man,” Parker said.
Hype man or not, Parker is off to a scorching start as he recorded 16 tackles in the team’s first contest last week.
Not only does Parker have outstanding athletic ability, his poise helps his teammates remain confident.
“Parker is not a vocal leader, he leads more by example. You will very rarely hear him scream or yell at guys,” Coach Lewis said.
Leaders often have a lot of redeeming qualities. For Parker, the biggest one is probably his intelligence.
According to senior quarterback Grayson Barry, his football IQ allows him to be near the ball at all times.
“If the ball is going up the middle or it’s a stretch, you know Parker is going to be in on the tackle. He’s most likely not going to get beat deep, stuff like that,” Grayson said.
Parker’s awareness for the game has also caught the attention of Coach Lewis.
“I always say to kids, that’s probably 40 percent of the game, is your football IQ, and I would say that his football IQ as a linebacker is probably 50 percent, you know we watch that everyday on film,” Coach Lewis said.
Not only is Parker an incredible student of the game, he also dominates the classroom. He maintains very high grades and is drawing interest from a handful of Ivy League schools.
Even though he is smart, Parker doesn’t necessarily enjoy going to class, but he understands the benefits it brings.
“I don’t think a lot of kids like going to class. You just got to get through with it. It will lead you to good places if you just sit down and focus up,” Parker said.
Editor’s note: Mr. Smith is a journalism student at Arizona State University