||A son's one wish
Football player hoping father gets to see him play during senior campaign
RELEASED: Aug. 28, 2003
DANVILLE, KYSolomon Parker has big goals for his senior football campaign at Centre College.
He dreams of making big plays, being named an all-American, beating arch-rival Trinity and winning the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship.
But he has one wish that stands far above the rest: he wants his father to see him play at least one game in his Colonels' uniform.
"I always talk to him about coming to see me," Parker said. "I'd love to see him here."
Though Parker has played many football games at Centre and taken part in many other athletic endeavors (he was a three-sport standout in football, basketball, and track and field as a sophomore), Robert Nathaniel Parker hasn't been able to see his only son compete since Solomon graduated from Franklin-Simpson High School in 2000.
Several years ago the elder Parker developed polymyositis, a rare disorder that deteriorates muscle in the body. It affects one in 100,000 nationwide and its cause is unknown. Robert retired from his job shortly after being diagnosed when walking became difficult.
He sometimes uses a walker, but has refused a wheelchair.
"His pride is too great," said Solomon, a double major in international studies and history from Franklin, Ky.
Solomon said he has a tight bond with his father. They talk nearly every day on the telephone.
"In a way, I believe what has fallen upon my father has actually made us closer," he said. "His faith in Christianity has become even stronger. He's even more of a father figure for me to look up to than before."
Robert is equally proud of his son.
"He's a dynamic young man," he said. "He's always been able to talk to his mother and me, and we encourage him to. I've always tried to be a good dad, but I think I've become a better father since my illness."
Solomon, an outside linebacker and defensive end for the Colonels, has had good leaders to follow in athletics and academics. His father was an all-state football player at Franklin-Simpson and went on to play college football for Jacksonville State, Jackson State and Alabama State (where he received his degree in 1976). Solomon's uncle, James Earl Parker, played basketball and is an attorney in West Virginia. His cousin Joe "Joker" Phillips was a standout wide receiver for Franklin-Simpson and the University of Kentucky, and is now an assistant coach for the Wildcats. Another cousin, DeMarcus Doss, played college basketball for Eastern Kentucky University.
But when Solomon first played football as a sophomore in high school, Robert wasn't sure it was a wise decision.
He laughed at me when I mentioned it, Solomon said. I only weighed 160 pounds then. (He now weighs 220-plus.)
"We didn't think he'd be worth a hill of beans, Robert said with a laugh. "He was skinny and uncoordinated. But he was very determined. He has a strong internal drive, never needing anyone to push him. He's that way in his academics and athletics."
Solomon said he might pursue professional football in Europe next year, but is also considering law school or graduate school.
Robert hasn't been able to watch his son play in person since Solomon's high school games, though Solomon takes Centre football contests on video back to Franklin for his father to watch.
In high school, Solomon's mother, Paula Faye, would drive Robert to Franklin-Simpson's home games. They'd steer the car around the track and park behind one of the goal posts. Robert would watch the game with his binoculars, cheering his son from the car.
On senior night, Solomon was recognized and walked onto the field with his younger sister and mother. The public-address announcer acknowledged Robert as he watched from the car. The crowd gave Robert a standing ovation.
"Everyone treated us so well," Robert said.
"I'll never forget it," Solomon said.
Paula Faye regularly attends Centre games, but Robert can't commit to attending a game this season.
"Id really like to," he said. "But my legs are getting weaker and weaker. I really want to see him play. Football was my sport, too. I know it would really make him happy."
"I just want my dad to have a chance to enjoy what I have for the past four years," Solomon said.
Paula Faye said, "It would be a blessing. We hope he can make it to just one game this season."
Centre's first game is Sept. 6 at Kenyon. The Colonels' first home game is Sept. 13 against Franklin & Marshall.
For more on Centre football, go to http://www.centre.edu/web/sports/football/football.htm.
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