Fighting Illini In Top Two For Virginia Star

The Fighting Illini football coaching staff is making a strong effort to recruit outstanding prospects to campus. But the quick positive response by one Virginia star has surprised even them. Mike Parker is a four-star receiver/defensive back who has narrowed his college choices to two including Illinois despite never having visited the school.

Michael Parker is a four-star athlete from Kettle Run High School in Nokesville, Virginia. He recently narrowed his list of schools to Virginia and Illinois. Parker explains why both schools made the cut.

"Virginia shows me a lot of love. They are close to home. They took me in as one of their own the first time I went down there for their spring game last year. Mike London is a really great football coach, and I would love to play under him. And all of their assistants show me love every time I go down there.

"I recently visited for their junior days; they had two of them on back-to-back weekends, and I went to both just to show I was just as interested in them as they are in me. UV, they show me love, so that's the reason they are in my top two right now.

"As for Illinois, they are my most recent offer. I like them because they told me how quickly I would be able to play. I definitely got something from them when I talked to Coach (Chris) Beatty and Coach (Tim) Beckman on the phone.

"It's a really great place; I looked it up online and saw the campus and some of the reports people have on Illinois. They definitely deserve a spot in my top schools."

While many argue Virginia has the upper hand on Parker as the in-state school, he stated both schools have an equal chance.

"They both are neck-to-neck right now. I wouldn't say I am leaning any certain way. But those two schools are definitely stand out from everybody else."

Illinois quarterback coach and co-offensive coordinator Beatty has been recruiting Parker. Through numerous conversations over the phone, Parker has grown very fond of Beatty.

"He is really down-to-earth. He is funny and a guy I can get along with because he relates to me. Actually, my defensive coordinator and Coach Beatty played together. And my head coach coached with him in an all-star game down here in Virginia.

"I got on the phone with him, and we had a connection from the start. It is really great. The first time he called, I probably talked to him for 15 minutes, and we connected well."

Parker plans to make his first visit to Illinois for its annual spring game, even if he makes a verbal commitment to Virginia. He mentioned a few things he will be looking at specifically.

"I am going to pay attention to their defense, which is where I would like to play. I want to see them fly around the football. I want to see their safeties getting after it. I will definitely take the game speed into consideration. "I'm looking forward to see how interactive the coaches are with the players. And after the scrimmage, I am going to look at how they do things and what it's like off the field."

Illinois has been recruiting Parker as an athlete, inviting him to play any position he wants. He shares the positions he think will fit him best in Illinois's system.

"Looking at some of the film, I would love to play some on the defensive side of the ball—backfield, safety, outside linebacker type of position."

At 6'-3", 205 pounds, Parker is a superb athlete. He boasts a 4.57 40-yard dash, 290-pound bench, 10.1-inch broad jump, and 36-inch vertical. But he believes his best trait is his leadership.

"My team had a great season, and I feel like I had great leadership by getting our team pumped up and doing my responsibilities. Team-wise that's definitely the biggest attribute I bring. Also, I work hard every day."

To that end, he shares what he is working on for this next season.

"I would like to improve on my back pedal. I get out every day and work on my hips and my hands. I definitely want to improve on finding the football; I try to work hard on that every day as well. Also, I need to get around the football a little more than I was this season."

Parker played a large role in guiding Kettle Run to a 13-1 record and state semifinal berth in 2011.

"It was a fantastic season. I felt like we had the best bond in the state; we definitely came together as a group. The first year at my school, we went 0-10, the next year we went 3-7, then we went 4-6, and this year we went 13-1. I feel it was the bond we had and the connection we had among ourselves."

"As far as myself, I feel this is the best year I have ever had. I got it done off the field, on the field, and in the weight room."

Still, Parker is not content with last year and has set an extremely high bar for his senior year.

"To be honest, I'm predicting a state championship. Since we were so close last year, just being a game away from the state championship, we smell blood. We are going to come out firing and smacking heads. That's what it's all about—just being physical. Just like this year, people are going to want to come out to see us.

"I'm betting everything I have that we make it to the state championship. I promised my guys—just trying to be a leader—if we continue to work as hard as we did last year, we will make it back to the state semis and then hopefully to the state championship."

Parker's projected date to announce his commitment is March 27. He will make his announcement via press conference.

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