The result was predictable when Everette Parker asked how many of the 150 or so boys gathered on the bleachers in the Beaufort High School gymnasium dreamed of playing in the NFL one day.
Every hand shot up.
Parker then laid out the long odds of doing so, advising the young men to get up before the sun to outwork their peers in whatever their chosen field, whether football, engineering, or medicine. The first day of Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Ron Parker’s third annual football camp at Beaufort High was about much more than football – it was about attacking life, as the football star put it.
“I try to get the message to these kids that it’s not just football out here that we can be successful,” Parker said. “Anything you want to do, you just have to put the time and effort in and go do it. If it was easy, everybody would be doing it. If you don’t put the time in and have a work ethic, you’re going to get outworked by the next man while you sleep.”
Ron Parker’s tireless work ethic took him from an overlooked high school star growing up on St. Helena Island to a junior college and NCAA Division II Newberry College before he bounced around the NFL looking for a long-term gig. He latched on in Kansas City in 2013 and, after a breakout 2014 campaign, signed a five-year, $25 million deal that runs through 2019.
The camp will focus more on football Saturday morning, when it resumes at 9 a.m. at Beaufort Middle School, but for the most part Friday, Parker was content to cede the microphone to his elder cousin, Everette Parker, who recently retired from the Navy after two decades of service. Everette Parker spoke on the dangers of falling in with the wrong crowd and encouraged the assembled athletes to stay involved with sports as a vehicle to keep them out of trouble and help them reach greater heights.
Ron Parker sees his annual return to Beaufort as a way to encourage the next generation to do exactly that.
“I try to get back three or four times in the offseason and just go around to the schools and show my face and show them that I went out and took care of my business and now I’m back,” Parker said. “If I come back and you’re not here standing in my camp, that means you went and got in trouble or did something you’re not supposed to, or you would be here.”
In addition to his annual camp, which is capped at 250 participants, Parker hopes to eventually give more back to the Beaufort area. He said he has begun exploring the possibility of opening a community center to help “keep these kids on a positive path.”
“This place means everything to me, man,” Parker said. “This is my stomping grounds. I can see myself when I first started in their shoes. I just love this city.”