He might have been a little bit bigger, but he had no extra scars or wrinkles that gave the impression that he had suddenly aged rapidly. But when he spoke, he did so with a new sense of understanding – one that can only be gained through experience.
“From last season, I just feel like I’ve grown up,” he said. “I’m not really a little boy, anymore. I’m trying to turn into a man. That’s what I’m trying to become.”
More than a decade ago, Roy Williams – aka Superman – became a Sooners legend while playing the position that has been re-created for Parker this season. The position has been tweaked a bit, relying on Parker to cover the best slot receiver on the opposing offense.
That’s not the only thing changing for Parker, who said he feels like a cornerback because he’s running all day in practice.
He doesn’t feel small anymore, like he did last season despite standing 6-foot-1. He’s not shying away from being vocal anymore, either. He’s talking a lot more and trying to be a leader.
It’s a lot, really.
“I wouldn’t say it was ever overwhelming,” Parker said.
That’s a different Parker, as well. Last season, he just might have been overwhelmed by all of it. He’s leaning on the experience of failure last season to help teach the young safeties, who despite being just a year younger than Parker have repeatedly asked him to watched film.
“I take complete ownership in that,” Parker said.
The messages he shares with Will Sunderland, Kahlil Haughton and Prentice McKinney are all the same: Don’t be scared, do what you can, go full speed. They are all messages and lessons that he learned from his own experiences last year.
That’s the biggest difference in Parker this season. He’s now a leader, ranking third in the secondary in career starts.
“Steven Parker had a great year as a true freshman and has really come on and has really even picked up his game even more,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “He has a chance to be really a special player there.”
Parker will be counted on to do a lot. Not only is he expected to cover the top slot receiver as the Sooners’ nickel back, but he will also play deep safety on occasion and blitz off the edge – hopefully doing it as well as Williams did in the 2001 Red River Rivalry.
He’ll be the general of sorts on the wide side of the field.
Throw in his new leadership requirement, and all eyes will be on Parker this season.
“I took a very, very big job,” Parker said. “I have some big shoes to fill.”