Big games lead to big-time accolades, yet it’s the small things – the kind where boxscore stats don’t tell the whole story – that tend to stick out the most.
No question, Aaron Parker enjoyed a game for the ages this past Saturday for the University of Rhode Island football team. The senior wide receiver established career-highs with 12 receptions for 227 yards and a touchdown in URI’s 44-36 triple overtime setback to Delaware.
It was the most catches by a URI player in one game since 1994, and the fifth with the most receiving yards in school history. Nine of his 12 grabs went for a first down and his 24-yard TD catch gave the Rams a 19-14 lead in the fourth quarter.
“I kept finding and running to the open space,” said Parker.
To the surprise of no one who witnessed Parker’s masterpiece up close, his electric performance merited Co-Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week honors. The Rams have now played two games and Parker ranks second in the country (among Football Championship Subdivision competitors) with 371 receiving yards.
For all the catches and yards amassed by Parker in the season’s first home game at Meade Stadium, it was his ability to block in space that epitomized why he was chosen a captain. It was a selfless act that came at a critical juncture and placed the Rams in prime position to emerge with a big-time, primetime win over a nationally-ranked team before a frenzied crowd of 8,511.
With URI and No. 21 Delaware locked in a 29-29 stalemate and the second overtime looming, the Rams opted for a quick strike on the first play from scrimmage that in turn would put all the pressure on the Blue Hens.
The mission was accomplished thanks in large part to Parker, who sealed up a running lane along the near sideline after fellow wideout Ahmere Dorsey caught a short pass from quarterback Vito Priore.
Parker’s block of a Delaware defender freed up Dorsey to take it 25 yards to the end zone. The Rams were back in front at 36-29 thanks to someone whose speed and acceleration was on display – albeit without the football in his hands.
On the Dorsey touchdown, Parker timed his block perfectly. He had an assignment, executed it to perfection, and saw the fruits of his sacrifice pay off as the Rams stood on the verge of knocking off the Blue Hens for what would have been the second straight year.
After his team’s tough-to-swallow defeat, Parker was asked about springing Dorsey and how that particular play offers proof that he is a complete receiver – someone who at 6-foot-3 isn’t just a big target with Velcro hands.
“Throughout the (Delaware) game, I was missing blocks. I kept telling my teammates, ‘That’s on me. That’s my fault. I’ve got to get that block.’ My position coach (Donovan Varner) always tells me to be patient and that it’s going to come for me,” said Parker. “In that particular moment, I had to just go ahead, put my head down, and put a hat on him. That’s about it.”
To those who interact with Parker on a daily basis, he’s not just a very important piece to URI’s offense. His preference is to lead by his actions, hence why it was so rewarding for Parker to make a key block in a key spot on Saturday night.
“He just goes out and makes plays. He’s a monster of a player who does so many things and continues to play hard,” said head coach Jim Fleming.
Whether it was going over the middle, working the sidelines, turning short receptions into big gains, or splitting double coverage, Parker torched the Delaware secondary all night long. He also saved his best work for when it counted the most. Between the fourth quarter and the three overtime periods, he collected 134 yards on five catches.
“When we needed plays, he came up with huge ones,” said Fleming, noting Parker’s 36-yard catch-and-run that led to C.J. Carrick’s game-tying 44-yard field goal with 19 seconds remaining in regulation. “He’s an incredible player, a great worker, and someone who was able to lead us at a critical time, which is very significant.”
With the Rams off this coming weekend – their next game is Sept. 21 at CAA rival New Hampshire – Fleming and his staff will have plenty of time to review the game tape from the first two contests. Regarding Parker, there’s certainly there’s plenty to unpack. Yet as he knows, not everything you do is defined by how many catches and touchdowns you end up with.
2019 YurView URI Football Broadcast Schedule:
- Sept. 7 – Delaware, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 28 – Stony Brook, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 – Elon, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 2 – Merrimack, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 23 – James Madison, 12 p.m.