Hollywood strikes again.
As a three-year old, Ryan Parker watched “Rudy,” which told the story of former Notre Dame walk-on Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger. He’s dreamed of playing at Notre Dame ever since.
Now a 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior linebacker at Baylor School in Chattanooga, Tenn., Parker will get that chance next season after accepting a preferred walk-on spot with the Irish.
“To be honest, it’s been my dream school,” Parker said. “My room is painted blue and gold. It’s half blue and half gold and I have a Fathead of a Notre Dame football helmet on my wall. You just can’t pass up a dream. That was one of the main factors for me.”
Parker had drawn offers from 13 different college programs including Army, Navy, Air Force, Eastern Michigan, South Alabama, Richmond and Columbia.
But walking on at Notre Dame, despite a potential price tag of nearly $250,000, was an easy decision.
“It’s hard to describe the feeling you get when your dreams come true,” he said. “I replay the moment over and over in my mind when I told my teammates,” he said. “They were almost happier for me than I was myself.”
Notre Dame’s interest in Parker began during the summer when his coach at Baylor School reached out to the Irish.
Assistant coach Mike Elston quickly responded.
“My coach back in summer called up Mike Elston, they know each other somehow, and he said to watch my film,” Parker said. “The next day they offered me a preferred walk on spot and invited me out to camp. I went up and met all the coaches and that’s when they pulled me aside. They said, ‘We really want you to come here and play here. We think you’d really help out the team.’”
Parker spent four days camping in South Bend, which let him develop a relationship with Elston.
“That was great,” he said. “Coach Elston and I really got to know each other well. I love his coaching style. That’s one of the main factors that went into me choosing Notre Dame. I have a lot of other offers but I loved Notre Dame and all the coaches.”
Parker first attended a Notre Dame game back in eighth grade. He returned last weekend, this time as a recruit.
“I made it to the USC game,” Parker said. “It was great. I got to meet a lot of the players and the atmosphere was crazy. It’s so much better in person. I always heard it was amazing but there’s nothing like experiencing it for yourself.”
It was during that visit that Parker notified the Irish coaches of his intent to walk on.
“I really decided the night before,” he said. “I was ready to make the decision. Coach Elston was really happy for me.”
Through nine games, Parker has recorded 110 tackles, 34 tackles for loss, eight sacks and has scored 13 touchdowns with a 9.8 yards per carry average.
He will play linebacker in college.