Rutgers prides itself on preparing its personnel for the next level. And in the case of J'Vonne Parker, that means two separate careers in football.
Parker paved his path in the NFL for more than half a decade, and then found a second calling after he called it a career.
Enter Pro Edge.
Parker returned home to New Jersey where he co-founded the company with fellow former Scarlet Knight Sameeh McDonald. The goal – train the next generation of New Jersey college linemen.
“To be honest, Pro Edge saved my life,” Parker said. “Coming up with that idea, I was on a downward spiral really fast before I came up with the idea. Retirement is a challenge for every NFL player. I literally had no direction before Pro Edge and I was in a bad way mentally, not anything else, but mentally. One thing you take from an athlete is structure and his purpose in that structure and you can destroy who that guy is.”
Pro Edge (Elevating Development to Gain Excellence) was a life-changer for Parker, and he wants it to be the same for local high school linemen.
Whether it's former four-star lineman Tommy Hatton at North Carolina, top 2018 defensive lineman Tyler Friday or a prospect hungry for his first Division III offer, Parker and McDonald train them all.
“As far as being back home and running Pro Edge, it's been a lifesaver like no other,” Parker said. “I love the kids. I walk in the door and if I'm down, guess what? I'm up now. I'm imparting and changing these kids' lives and I'm honored to be a part of the process for them. They look up to me like I'm a big brother of theirs. That's really an honor for me.”
For every known recruiting name, Pro Edge focuses equally on scholarship money at any level for its prospects.
“Every athlete that comes through our door, I feel, has the potential to earn scholarship money,” Parker said. “That's one of our guarantees to our parents and our clients. We tell them, 'listen when your kid walks out of this door, you will have the skillset to go earn a scholarship or some financial aid on any level.' I don't care if it's Division III. There's money that they're offering as well. Our main goal is to save parents and kids with the headache of how to deal with scholarship money.”
Parker defensive line experience at both Rutgers and with six NFL teams give him multiple perspectives on what it takes for the next step.
“We're all in the same house so that gives us an advantage,” he said. “The offensive line gets to see how the defensive line trains. I normally train just the defensive line and coach McDonald normally trains the offensive line, however we piggyback off each other often. The offensive linemen come to me, 'what are you trying to do as a defensive lineman when I do this?' And vice versa.”
Parker's focuses fall upon his own prospect, but the former Scarlet Knight still has an eye on his alma mater.
Coach Chris Ash's staff hosted Parker on a visit this spring, and he will be back during the June camp circuit.
“Let me tell you something, I went up to Rutgers and met the new staff and some of the things that they're doing now,” Parker said. “One thing that I can tell you about coach Ash and that staff, these guys are passionate about what they do. It's kind of like when [Greg] Schiano came in. He was passionate.”
The Schiano comparisons are not new for Ash. The two spent time together during Ohio State's bowl season and will both be at the Jun 8 Fairleigh Dickinson satellite camp.
“It's not just about passion, Ash isn't a jerk about it,” Parker said. “He has the beat of that locker room. One thing that I can say about Ash, I really respect what he's doing. He's recruiting Jersey unlike anybody has recruited Jersey before.
“The fact that Michigan tried to come into his backyard and do a satellite camp and he said, 'OK I'm going to respond with Ohio State and the No. 1 team in the nation in our own satellite camp,' he earned every ounce of respect that I have. That's the type of player I was. I was cocky. I was confident and that showed me all the confidence that he has. I'm expecting big things from Rutgers I the next few years man.”