Neil Parry focused on return to the field.

Eighteen months and twenty surgeries later Parry is still determined to play football for San Jose State University.

It's been 18 months and 20 surgeries since San Jose State football player Neil Parry has played in a game.

After suffering a compound fracture on October 14, 2000 against the University of Texas-El Paso that resulted in his right leg being amputated 18 inches below the knee, Parry is ready to make his comeback.

The Spartans special-teams player suffered the injury on a third-quarter kickoff when one of his teammates rolled on his leg after being knocked to the ground by a Miners player.

Two seasons later, Parry is as determined as ever to get back on the football field.

"I feel like I'm probably ready to play in the fall," Parry said.

Even though other people, including football players on other teams, have been fast to criticize him in his attempt to make a comeback.

But Parry won't let anything get in his way.

"There's always people like that," Parry said. "The people that said those things obviously don't know the type of person that I am."

The last of his 20 surgeries was performed in February to remove bone spurs from his leg and to fuse his tibia and fibula.

If not for the bone spurs, Parry said he would have played last season.

"During the beginning of last season I was feeling pretty good," Parry said. "I was healthy ... then I had to stop running because of the bone spurs. After I get healthy from this (surgery), I should be on my way."

Parry's father, Nick, and brother Josh, who is playing in NFL Europe until June, have been behind him in his effort to get back on the football field.

"He should do what he wants," Nick said. "I've been behind him 100 percent. I told him what he decides is fine with me."

Although his brother Josh, who was his teammate at the time of his injury, is in Germany playing football, he still checks in to see how his little brother is doing.

"He calls me three times a week asking how my leg is doing, seeing if I'm doing alright," Parry said. "He says he can't wait to watch me play again."

Parry's dad and brother are excited for him, but that doesn't mean his mom feels the same way.

"My mom is a little scared," he said. "She just doesn't want to see me get hurt again, especially with the stuff that happened with Curtis Williams."

Williams, who was a defensive back with the University of Washington, was paralyzed in a game against Stanford in Palo Alto while Parry was in the hospital at Stanford Medical Center.

While Parry was at the Stanford medical center, his former defensive back's coach, J.D. Williams, who coached Parry during his freshman year at SJSU, came into his room.

"I was like, 'What the hell are you doing here?'" Parry said. "He was like, 'It was my brother, he's paralyzed.' It was shocking ... he actually passed away on the field. They revived him."

Williams passed away last week from complications stemming from his injuries.

Parry made the trip to Fresno on Monday to attend his funeral.

"(My mom) doesn't want anything worse to happen to me," Parry said. "She doesn't want to see me go through anything else."

Parry wasn't able to participate in any contact drills during spring practice, and despite being confined to the sidelines during the spring games, he thinks he'll be OK.

While the rest of the team was playing spring games last month, Parry was working out and just trying to get healthy again.

"I should be ready. The next step is to start running again."

The only thing holding him back now is a new prosthetic leg made for running.

After the last surgery, a new leg had to be made for Parry because the surgery changed the shape of his leg.

The elder Parry said the doctors had to change the design of the leg too.

"It was made to sprint straight ahead," Nick said.

He said Neil has to be able to stop quickly and turn another direction, which wasn't possible with the previous prosthetic.

Because of the last surgery and not having a running leg available to him right away, Parry's father said he may not be where the rest of the team is when the season starts.

"He might be a little behind," Nick said. "It may take him until midseason (to catch up)."

Despite not playing in more than a season, Parry said the SJSU coaching staff has been nothing but supportive, and thinks he will be able to complete his comeback.

"They've been behind me the whole time," Parry said. "They've told me to just go at my own pace and whenever I'm ready, let them know."

Head coach Fitz Hill wasn't the coach at the time Parry was injured, but is behind him nonetheless.

"Everything is on Neil's schedule," Hill said.

Hill, who is entering his second season as the Spartans head coach, told Parry to go at his own pace, and not worry about trying to rush anything.

When he's ready to come back, Hill said he'd find a place for Parry on the football team.

Hill went as far as to say that Parry could work with him if he isn't able to play again.

"I told him if he can't resume his full capacity of playing, he has a place with me coaching."

Parry said Hill has been one of his biggest supporters.

"His mom's been handicapped for most of his life, so he knows what it's like to have to deal with something like that," Parry said. "He's told me don't let anyone discourage me ... he'll do whatever he can to help me out."

Whether football is in Parry's future is uncertain.

One thing he knows he wants to do is be a motivational speaker.

Parry said he would like to go around and speak to high school students about his accident and everything that he has gone through.

Hill said he has already let Parry talk to the team.

"If you can't be motivated (by Neil), You can't be motivated," Hill said. "You don't have a pulse."

Parry has also thought about coaching, perhaps with his brother and his father, who is the head football coach at Parry's alma matter, Sonora High school.

His father said he's already had a chance to coach with Josh, and can't wait for a chance to do the same with Neil.

"It was a blast to watch (Josh) interact with the kids," Nick said. "I would love to coach with (Neil)," Nick said.

Nick said Parry could be coaching already.

"He's had offers," Nick said. "I've had people come up to me and say if he ever wants to coach, 'call me.' "

While he was out of action last season, Parry helped out the Spartans defensive backs' coaches.

He said he enjoyed the experience and was able to see the game from a different perspective.

"Sometimes when you're playing, you're wondering what the coaches are thinking," Parry said. "(Now I know) what the coaches think."

A coaching career may have to wait a while, because Parry says he's going to play again.

As far as Hill is concerned, it's a done deal.

"As long as Fitz Hill is in football, there's always going to be a place for Neil Parry. thanks Andy for this fine article!

Inside TheSpartans Top Stories