JUCO lineman has the attitude for the Huskers

There's an attitude with linemen and the inspiration for that attitude varies. Some are surly, because they are the main reason for a team's success, yet it's the "skill" players who get all the attention. Some are mad, just because that's how they are. For Gerald Parker, he's got lots of reasons, but they are all reasons why Nebraska is going after him as hard as they are. He's got attitude.

Don't get me wrong, I like all that technical stuff when it comes to blocking. I know that the higher you ascend in levels of play, the more sound your technique has to be. You have to have good hands, good feet and you need to be quick off the ball and able to sustain blocks and get off blocks and get down the field.

That's all well and good, but for many linemen, most in fact, true success starts with the one intangible that I think is absolutely necessary to be a truly outstanding man in the trenches:

Attitude

Define it however you want, it's not rocket science when you get in the down position, lining up against a defense. It's pure simplicity. For Compton Junior College offensive tackle Gerald Parker, that's where it begins and ends.

"You get down, you've got to be nasty and just want to kill the guy across from you," he said. "You have to be ready to take the guy across from you and maybe someone else coming on the blitz. You've got to be mean. I think that's the only way to describe it. It's personal out there."

For someone standing 6 foot, 7 inches and weighing close to 300 pounds, you'd have to feel sorry for whoever he's got something personal against. To say it's personal isn't exactly accurate, because Gerald treats everyone the same. But the way he plans on treating them, you might as well call it personal, because he's looking to not just break you down physically, but mentally too.

"That's why I love the fourth quarter the most. The game could be on the line, but that's when you really see the guy across from you start to wear down," Gerald said. "I don't slow down, though. I see my guy start to back off a lot and not even want to rush, I'm going to finish him off."

Being a lineman with an attitude isn't anything special. Most great ones have it, unless they are so freakishly gifted, they can go out there like a robot and perform. But football players, and I mean real football players, they get as much enjoyment out of punishing the other guy as they do beating them on the scoreboard. "We're not going to get the credit, so we might as well knock the hell out of someone while we're there," Parker said of the skill guys getting most of the glory for wins. "It doesn't put a chip on your shoulder so much, because we are there to win. But we know that those guys behind us wouldn't do a thing if we weren't there."

While you have colorful terms such as scintillating, spectacular and explosive describing running backs and quarterbacks, the linemen are more often referred to as the big uglies, bigguns or just guys down in the trenches. There's nothing pretty about how they are referred to, so Parker believes there shouldn't be anything pretty about what he does.

It was something he realized early on high school, when he was once a tight end, but ended up a tackle to stay. "It wasn't for me. I didn't like it at all and I was asking the coach if I could play something else," Parker said. "I played offensive line and I was like ‘yeah, this is what I like'."

"Now, I wouldn't play anything else."

In the game of recruiting, offensive line coaches from around the country are often looking for that attitude. Yes, they want the hands, the frame and the quickness, but mindset comes in there, somewhere. Parker said he actually prefers a line coach, who seems to be insistent on that kind of attitude and out of all the coaches talking to him, one definitely fits that to a tee.

"Coach Wagner really cares about the kind of attitude you have," Gerald said of Nebraska offensive line coach Dennis Wagner. "When he talks about blocking, he talks about being nasty, taking over the line and just being intense."

"That's what I like, because that's how I am."

In Nebraska's system there is as much pass blocking as there is run blocking. If you were to go by last year, there's actually more. And in pass blocking, the nuances are pointed toward side stepping, sliding your feet and learning how to block while stepping back. That doesn't seem to offer many opportunities for a lineman to physically dominate his man, but Parker said that you can if you want to bad enough.

"You just have to give them a shot, maybe right in the chest – something that gets their attention," he said. "It's not like pulling, but you can get to them if you really want to."

Parker's affection for Wagner and his style was almost instantaneous. But he'll admit that one of the biggest reasons he looked at Nebraska in the first place was the fact that there were a couple of former Compton players there already. Senior defensive tackle Ola Dagunduro played there two years ago, while junior defensive tackle Brandon Johnson arrived not Lincoln within the last month.

It's odd, according to Parker, that at Compton Community College, it would be Nebraska, which seems to have the affection of so many. "When it got around that I had the Nebraska offer, everyone just kept telling me how great the school was," Parker said. "It's weird when you hear that stuff around here, because Nebraska is where it's at."

"But the coaches, players, everyone – they just all really like Nebraska."

Of course, Parker does as well, the Huskers his lone scheduled official visit, which is set to take place in October. And it's a visit that he's more than looking forward to. In fact, if everything works out as he hopes and even expects, he'll leave Lincoln as a future member of the big red.

"I'm expecting to commit on my visit, but we'll have to see how it goes," Parker said. "I like everything about the program, what they do, how they do it and the future they have ahead. I like the opportunity to play and I really like coach Wagner. It just really seems like the place for me."

Nebraska is recruiting Parker to play left tackle, the position he will play for Compton this year. And that position takes a little attitude aside the usual mindset of the position. While you can say it's not personal, Gerald will say that if it should ever happen that someone actually gets around him and takes down his QB, as the kids like to say – it's on.

"It pisses me off to be honest," Parker said of what he's thinking when he gets beat for a sack. "My quarterback is on the ground because of me. When that happens, it gets personal then and whatever he did to my quarterback, I am about to do 10 times worse to him."

"You got me once, but you sure as heck aren't getting me twice. I'm taking someone out."

If you were to ask Nebraska fans, they wouldn't mind that kind of attitude on the offensive line this year. Based on last year's woeful performance, they'll take just about any positive they can get. Whether it was the worst rushing team by average in Nebraska history or a team, which couldn't keep Zac Taylor off of his behind, the offensive line will continue to be one of those spots, where the need to succeed is urgent.

According to Parker, when talking about what coach Wagner has said to him, succeeding is the least of what he wants his lines to do. "He's told me over and over that he wants the best offensive line in the country," Gerald said. "He wants guys who can get off the ball and knock someone on their @#%$. He wants guys that just dominate and aren't afraid to get in there and mix it up to get the job done."

"I just say that's fine with me."

If Parker does indeed become a future Husker, he'll be one of the few offensive linemen, who will be able to enroll early and make it to campus in time for spring ball. And if he becomes a Husker, he'll be the third player from Compton to become a Husker in as many years.

That wouldn't bother Gerald, because he sees Nebraska as a place where he can not just be the kind of lineman he is, but become the kind of lineman he wants to be. He wants to learn the technique, get down the movement of the hands, feet and subtle nuances of the game. As for the rest, he's got that down. He knows that no matter what else he has to learn, and he knows there will be a lot, he's got the most important foundation to build upon.

Attitude

"You get to that level, you have to step up every part of your game," he said. "Technique is a much bigger deal there, so you have to be really good with your hands and your feet. But you still have to be mean. You still have to go after people. That will never change."

"Whatever they (the defense) gives you, you have to give it back to them, only like 10 times more."

"I can do that."

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