TAMPA – Leonard Parker doesn’t feel like the small guy anymore playing football.
The 2019 Plant athlete started his football life just three years ago as a freshman at Jesuit. He quickly made his presence known, scoring a 70-yard touchdown run on the JV squad and also had an 80-yard touchdown run called back due to a penalty.
Prior to his play on the gridiron, the 6’0″, 190-pounder was a speedy and undersized basketball player for four years. He made the conscious decision to switch sports because he says he felt too short to be a basketball player.
“Playing football I don’t feel like the small guy anymore. It helps me put my all on to the field,” Parker told Prep Sports Scouting. “On the basketball court, I was always that one kid who would dive for loose balls and make hustle plays whenever I had the chance to. That confidence I had while playing baskets carried over to football when I began playing.”
As a sophomore, Parker paced seniors Malik Davis, a current UF running back and Travell Harris, a current Washington State athlete at Jesuit. Parker totaled 27 carries for 233 yards and two rushing touchdowns. He also had an interception and a fumble recovery as a defensive back.
Last year, he transferred to Plant and his playing time went up and so did his stats. Parker had 10 touchdowns along with 659 total yards for the Panthers. His 16 receptions for 405 yards and five touchdowns triggered the coaches to move him to wide receiver for this upcoming season.
A dynamic and confident kid, Parker admitted that the transition has been difficult thus far.
“Playing wide receiver comes with a lot of knowledge,” he said. “But I think I got the hang of it now and I’m ready to ball out at receiver this season.”
Parker says he learned so much about the mental aspect of the game as a junior.
“Having coach [Robert] Weiner and the type of offense we run you have to be smart,” he said. “It helped better my vision and my decision making on and off the field.”
Surrounded by Division I talent at Plant, two offensive pieces that Parker credited for helping him mature were East Carolina commit, running back Ty Thompson and USF commit, quarterback Jordan McCloud.
On Thompson – “I learned a lot from Ty. As soon as I got to Plant, he began to teach me about their offense and all of the plays. Watching him run the ball during the spring made me work harder as a player who had a point to prove.”
On McCloud – “Jordan helped boost my confidence a lot. Every practice and every game he was always boosting my head making me feel like no one could stop me. So every play I would come out feeling indestructible knowing that Jordan believed in me.”
Parker currently holds five offers from Toledo, Southern Mississippi, Indiana, USF and Western Michigan (received last Friday).
He pointed to Ohio State, USF and Southern Mississippi as three programs showing him the most interest right now.
Parker says his vision is his biggest asset. He’s aiming to improve on his speed and upper body strength. With the spring game right around the corner on May 20, he wants to hit the weight room and balance his diet.
He is fortunate to play for one of the top offensive minds in high school football in coach Weiner. Entering his 15th year at Plant, Weiner has led the Panthers to four state championships (2006, 2008, 2009, 2011). Plant finished 12-2 last season and made it to the Class 7A state semifinal.
“Coach Weiner isn’t just a coach he’s also like a dad. When you do something wrong he’ll get on you but when he does get on you it also makes you stronger,” Parker said. “Coach Weiner has taught me how to be a team player and how to keep my head up when things are going bad. Coach is the G.O.A.T. He’s such a wise man and he knows the game of football off the back of his head.”
A typical Friday night at Dad’s stadium, Plant’s home field can get loud and quite rowdy. Parker loves every part of the experience.
“My favorite part about playing at Dad’s stadium is the support our students and the community gives us,” Parker said. “The crowd makes me feel like I’m playing at the collegiate level. Walking into Dad’s stadium on a Friday night is awesome you can feel the pulse of the crowd and it just gets you hyped.”
Parker is grateful for his mom, the person he calls his biggest role model in his life. He wants to make her happy by going to college and studying criminal justice. Parker says detective work catches his attention and he loves solving mysteries.
“After all the things that we’ve been through I couldn’t strive to be anyone else but her,” Parker said about his mom. “After being a single mother in college she still somehow managed to get her masters in management. So whenever I want to give up on something I think about how my mom never gave up and it pushes me to work harder.”
Watching Parker play sports is a fun adventure. He certainly held his own on the basketball court, but the move to focus solely on football has paid off and that is no surprise. He works to get better daily and never backs down from a challenge. Expect the offers to come piling in this summer for the rising senior athlete.
Favorite players to watch – Ezekiel Elliot and Julio Jones
Playlist before games – NBA Youngboy
Favorite movies – Forrest Gump
Favorite TV shows – Martin
Fun fact that nobody knows – “I’m a really good rapper.”
Nickname from teammates or friends – “Leo”
Game film: Parker’s Hudl tape
Photo credit: Tampa Bay Times
Jake Perper is the founder of Prep Sports Scouting. Make sure to follow along for all the updates on Twitter: @JakePerper.