Parker making a name for himself

Louisiana native Stephen Parker has come from nowhere to maybe turning into an opening day starter at left guard.

Stephen who?

That was the question many fans and media asked when University of Arkansas head football coach Houston Nutt mentioned possible starters at left guard on the day junior James Johnson had season-ending knee surgery in the offseason.

It turns out redshirt sophomore Stephen Parker (6-3, 312), the young man he brought up who has labored in obscurity his first two seasons in Fayetteville, is not only a contender but the odds-on opening game starter.

Parker took all the snaps with the first team during Saturday night's Fan Day scrimmage with injured redshirt freshman Robert Felton sitting out because of a strained knee.

"I feel pretty confident in this line and in my individual abilities," Parker said. "I have always thought I was man enough physically, but it was just a matter of getting the mental part down. Now I've gotten the reps, got the mental part down and I am ready to go to battle."

There's no doubt the Louisiana native, who turned 20 earlier this month, looks the part and fits the bill when it comes to having enough strength.

During the summer Parker - who likely won't be a nonscholarship player much longer - bench pressed 450, power cleaned 400 pounds and squatted 550.

"I've been a weight lifter all through high school, even did some Olympic weightlifting down there in New Orleans so I came here pretty strong," Parker said. "I've gotten even stronger since I've been here and I use that to my advantage. I fire off the ball and make the hit, not take the hit. I think I can handle most anybody I am going to go up against."

Parker came back from a ankle injury on Friday's practice to scrimmage on Saturday night.

"It looks like he held up pretty good (tonight)," Nutt said. "He's had a good camp. He's pushed Robert Felton."

Parker, who played for St. Paul Catholic High School in Mandeville, La., had scholarship offers to Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe, but the then 6-2, 260-pound lineman didn't get one from LSU.

He was good enough to be selected to play in Global Football All-Star games against players from Japan, Canada and Europe.

"I was an all-district, all-state player but LSU really didn't give a flip about me," Parker said. "I had a bunch of small offers like Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisiana-Monroe, but I figured if I was going to bust my butt for five years, I wanted to go somewhere that I would go to a bowl game every year."

Both of his parents graduated from Arkansas, he has relatives that live in the state and he was getting encouragement to go to Fayetteville for a former Razorback and NFL offensive lineman in Steve Korte.

"Mr. Steve Korte is a friend of my family and I played with his son when he was a freshman and I was a senior," Parker said. "He was telling me how great it was, my parents had graduated from here and I had family here. So I thought I wanted to give this a shot."

Parker is part of a young, inexperienced group of offensive lineman, all but one of whom will be making the first start of their career when the Razorbacks open the season on Sept. 4 by hosting New Mexico State at Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville.

"That offensive line was great last year - Shawn Andrews, Bo Lacy, Dan Doughty and the others," Paker said. "But you look at the guys we have now and the thing about it is that we have developed great chemistry and believe in ourselves.

"Some of those guys were married and just spent time together on the field last year, but this summer the 10 of us offensive line just did everything together," Parker added. "We would go through workouts together and all hang out together, go out to eat, just bonded. I think that plays a part."

Felton and Parker have swapped out working with the first team during preseason practice.

"Felton and I have been neck and neck so no matter who was in there the job is going to get done," Parker said. "And we can fill it any place they need us."

That's a reference to how Parker and Felton could easily swing over to right guard and fill in for senior starter Gene Perry.

"I have worked at right guard and left guard both since I have been up there and I think we will all work together to stay fresh and try to wear guys down instead of them wearing us down," Parker said. "It's a good situation."

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