Still on Track

CLEMSON - Kyle Parker came to Clemson with the understanding he knew he was going to have to basically take the starting quarterback job away from Willy Korn.

Keep in mind Korn is a year ahead of him and will more than likely be the starting quarterback when spring practice starts next March.

And keep in mind Korn is also revered by Clemson fans after taking Byrnes High School to three Class AAAA State Championships in nearby Duncan, S.C. He is the most highly regarded quarterback to come to Clemson since Steve Fuller wore the orange and white from 1975-'78.

Parker, probably better than anyone, understands firsthand the challenge that awaits him. He understands it because he too is revered by Clemson fans in the same way.

After enrolling at Clemson last January, Parker became a fan favorite on the baseball diamond when he hit .303 with a team-high 14 home runs and 50 RBIs. Those numbers earned the Jacksonville, Fla., native – who was supposed to be in high school – First-Team All-ACC honors as well as freshman All-American accolades.

"He has outstanding abilities as a hitter, catcher, and infielder," Clemson baseball coach Jack Leggett said. "He is very athletic and has a good sense of what he's doing on the baseball field."

The question is what will Parker do on the baseball field this spring, especially when football practice is going on?

"Honestly, I think Coach (Dabo) Swinney will do what he can do to make sure I'm doing what I want to do," Parker said. "He will figure out ways to make sure that I can be there when I need to be there for baseball, but at the same time be there for football so I can compete for the job and contribute to the team."

Swinney has a little experience in this matter.

He was the one that worked closely with Leggett last year to make sure Parker was getting the reps he needed in football practice, but was still there to help the baseball team when they needed him.

That schedule will be difficult to work out this year because the baseball team will be in the midst of its ACC schedule with key conference series at North Carolina, at Florida State and at Miami during the dates that traditionally spring football practice is going on.

Parker says he hasn't really discussed his spring schedule yet with either head coach because he just finished up exams and of course he has Gator Bowl practice now. But Parker is sure about one thing as he looks forward to spring, he wants a shot to be the Tigers starting quarterback next year.

"The thing is I didn't come here not to play," he said. "I don't know how things are going to work out to tell you the truth, but you know I will be out there competing and I will try to help the team hopefully win some games next year."

A scholarship player on the football team, Parker understands why he is at Clemson in the first place, but one of the reasons he chose the Tigers over schools like Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech Mississippi and yes, Nebraska, was the idea of knowing he would get the opportunity to play baseball as well.

And as much as he wants to be the starting quarterback for the Tigers, he also wants to continue what looks like a promising career in baseball.

"That's what I really wanted to do when I came here," Parker said. "I cannot see me not playing baseball and I cannot see me not playing football so I will just keep going… I came here to (be the starting quarterback) and that's the biggest thing. I'm going to come out there and compete and see what I can do."

As for maybe a football related injury ruining his baseball career or a baseball injury forcing him to quit football, Parker says he cannot afford to think like that. He enjoys playing both sports equally as much and the thought of not doing one or the other isn't imaginable.

He also understands that after his junior year on the baseball team he could come to another crossroad if professional baseball comes calling. He says he will cross that bridge when it comes, and he also added what's happening on the football field at that time, when he should be entering his redshirt sophomore season, will weigh a lot in his decision.

"I thought about it a little bit, but it all depends on how things go," he said. "Obviously, I want to give my best and try to compete and win a starting job. I think that will make decisions a little easier depending on how things start to fold out."

And who knows, maybe if he is drafted by Major League Baseball, there is a chance he could still play football too. Former Oregon quarterback Dennis Dixon did it prior to his senior season with the Ducks in 2007, and he turned in a near Heisman-like season before a knee injury late in the year ended his run.

Dixon is now a backup quarterback on the AFC North Champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL.

"It has been done before and it is not impossible to do," Parker said. "I think as long as the coaching staff will work with me and I contribute to both things, I think it will work out great." Top Stories