Kent State's Augustus Parrish is talented, tough, passionate about the game and definitely on the radar of the Green Bay Packers.
Parrish, a three-year starter at left tackle for the Flashes, was a second-team all-Mid-American Conference selection as a junior and senior. The Packers, who could use another young offensive tackle, were one of the teams in attendance at Kent State's pro day on March 12. Afterward, they were one of a couple of teams to talk to him individually, according to Scout.com's Ed Thompson.
The reason for the Packers' interest in Parrish — call him Gus — is obvious after listening to his collegiate position coach, Terry Tilghman.
"Gus is a good player. I really enjoyed Gus," Tilghman told Packer Report on Wednesday. "I had him for three years. He's just a phenomenal player. He's the only player in my 19-year career that I've ever seen absolutely enjoy the game as much as he enjoys it. Practice or game-time, he absolutely loves it. He enjoys just really getting physical and going and bashing people in the head and playing dirty and having fun dominating whoever's going against him."
Parrish, a mid-round prospect, measured in at 6-foot-4 and 302 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine last month in Indianapolis. Tilghman calls Parrish a "zone master," since the zone blocking scheme is the staple of Kent State's run game. The Packers, of course, use the zone as their dominant run scheme. Some teams, as well as Scout.com draft expert Chris Steuber, see Parrish as a left guard. Others, such as the Packers, view him as a right tackle, according to his agent, Adisa Bakari. Either way, his versatility is an obvious advantage and is something the Packers covet in their linemen.
"I feel like my strength is my athleticism, being able to get to the second level," Parrish said at the Combine. "Using my athleticsm and my speed, things of that nature. Zone blocking is something I've done my whole career at Kent. We did a little power running, too, so I'm suited for both."
While playing at a conference that's a notch below the power leagues is a disadvantage, Parrish matched up against Northern Illinois' Larry English, who is a likely first-round pick and is considered among the top pass rushers in the draft. In getting ready for the draft, he's working out with a list of players that includes Florida State's Everette Brown, another elite pass rusher. It helps, too, that NFL defensive MVP James Harrison played at Kent State and is one of several MAC players starring in the NFL.
"(Harrison's) road was a long road traveled and he's doing big things right now for himself and for his team, so I think it's great," Parrish said. "It's the MAC, mid-majors, as they call it. But I feel like I could've played with anybody. I could've played at Tennessee, I could've played at Alabama. I just didn't. I just ended up at Kent State, but it's gotten me here thus far and I just hope to continue to be successful in this game."
Tilghman can't say enough good things about Parrish. Parrish didn't blow away anybody with his speed and strength at the Combine, but Tilghman attributes that to Kent State having three strength coordinators implementing three different conditioning plans during Parrish's four years.
"We cheated him here at Kent State," he said.
Tilghman said one issue scouts have asked him about is Parrish's intelligence. Tilghman said Parrish has a learning disability that makes taking tests like the Wonderlic difficult. Tilghman's response to scouts who raise the question?
"I'm like, ‘Look, dude, if you know the kid and sit down and just talk and educate him, he'll learn and do whatever you ask him to do.' He's a smart kid, in my opinion, and will be fine in whatever he goes to do, whether it's working in the corporate world or working in the NFL."
Tilghman also lauds Parrish's toughness. Against Miami (Ohio), Tilghman said Parrish played with a strained shoulder that rendered his right hand mostly useless, but he dominated, anyway. Against Temple, Parrish strained his right calf, and Tilghman tried to pull Parrish out of the game.
"He'd say, ‘Yes, sir,' and then he'd circle around me and tell that kid, ‘Don't go in the game,'" Tilghman recalled. "He'd just run out on the field and there was nothing I could do about it. He looked like Blackbeard the pirate or something, just running around on one leg. He refused to come out of the game."
Tilghman saves his highest praise for last, and it's worth remembering for a Packers team that puts a high value on character.
"If I can be lucky enough to have my two boys grow up into the men that Gus is," Tilghman said, "then I would have done a good job as a dad."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport