Terrell PARKER is quickly becoming aware of all the little intricacies and nuances of the Canadian brand of football and of the occasionally mind-numbing task of playing linebacker in the three-down game.
But the Winnipeg Blue Bombers defender also knows this: If a guy makes a mistake on the football field, it's sure as heck better to be going at full speed than be caught standing still.
"That's the truest thing ever said in football," said Parker Thursday, following the Bombers' last full practice before Saturday's date in Guelph, Ont., against Hamilton. "If you messed up but you made the tackle, you're covering up for your mistake. That's the way I look at it."
"And that," added head coach Tim Burke with a grin, "is what I like about him."
The emergence of Parker as the Bombers' starting WILL (weak side) linebacker has been one of the club's positive storylines to the start of the 2013 season. After all, he leads the team in tackles with 13 -- just two behind CFL leader J.C. Sherritt of Edmonton -- and has drawn rave reviews from Burke for being assignment sharp through two weeks.
But Parker's rapid development also provides an intriguing little subplot to Saturday's game against the Tabbies. He is replacing Marcellus Bowman -- who left for Hamilton in the off-season as a free agent -- in the Bombers' defensive dozen. Bowman, meanwhile, is on the Ticats' nine-game injured list and remains one of Parker's best buds in the game.
"We talk all the time," said Parker. "He always told me, 'Whenever you get your opportunity, be ready.' I'll be happy to see him. It will be cool. And, yeah, I guess you could say it's going to be a little weird, too... he left here and I'm supposed to be his replacement.
"But I don't look at it like that. I'm just the next man up. This is my opportunity and I'm getting a good chance right now so I've got to take advantage of it."
You hear that a lot in any chat with Parker, who constantly drops terms such as "opportunity" and "privilege" into the conversation. And with good reason, it turns out.
An all-conference all-star for three straight years from 2007-09 at Glenville State, Parker had some academic issues in 2010, left school, and ended up playing for the Assindia Cardinals of the German Football League. He was back in school and coaching a year later, but not playing.
And so when the Bombers brought him to Canada in 2012, well, let's just say he's still thanking the heavens to this day.
"I'm appreciative every day, man," said Parker. "This is a great league, one of the greatest in the world. Even last year when I was on the practice roster I was just happy to be here. There's a lot of guys at home with the same ability, maybe better, than me. I'm blessed to be in this situation.
"And so every day I put this helmet on, it's a privilege. I could get hurt tomorrow and then it's gone. Every time I walk into the locker-room I feel privileged. Every time I walk onto the field, I feel lucky. That's why I'm playing the way I do.
"I'm just getting to the ball," Parker added. "If all else fails, find the ball and get there, man. If I make a mistake but I'm at least going fast doing it, maybe I can still keep my job."
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