The scorching late spring sun beats down in the far west Valley as the
Verrado High School varsity football team weaves in and out of their position drills. Per usual, the Vipers’ vocal and emotional leader, defensive end Jonathon Parks, is spear-heading the charge with high fives and words of encouragement.
Standing 6-feet-4, weighing close to 250 pounds and coming off an All-Region junior season which included seven sacks and 14 tackles-for-loss Parks is driven to greatness, mostly because of his special angel watching every snap and step he takes.
“My buddy Kordell,” Parks said to Sports360AZ.com. “Committed suicide last year. It took a toll on me and my family…he was my best friend.”
Kordell Kyle Wilcox died July 11, 2017. He was just 18 years old.
The two childhood friends grew up together dove hunting and sharing other common interests. They were close but drew apart a bit when Parks started at Verrado and Wilcox was homeschooled through the K.E.Y.S. Program (Kingdom Education For Youth Scholars).
Through the mental struggles of losing his closest friend, Parks never forgot to keep the focus moving forward on himself, his teammates and coaches at Verrado.
“He handled it well, he did what he needed to do,” Verrado head coach Tom Ward said to Sports360AZ.com. “As we all do, he needed to move [forward] and he’s been able to do that.”
Park missed nearly all of his sophomore season with a broken left leg suffered in VHS’s first game of the year against Paradise Valley but showcased his skills last fall when fully healthy and given the opportunity. His greatest strength could be his versatility: quick enough to track down plays in the backfield but strong enough to bull-rush inside.
He keeps a watchful eye on a pretty polished pass rusher who plays just down the road in Glendale.
“ Chandler Jones of the Cardinals is a dynamic pass rusher,” Parks said with a smile. “He’s a little bit undersized which I think I am, too. I’m able to play off his technique because he’s big but he also has speed on his size. I think I have both, as well.”
His breakout junior campaign has brought college coaches to Buckeye. Parks has received interest from UNLV, UC-Davis and Portland State. Expect that list to grow with a big senior season.
The team-first Parks has goals of helping the young Vipers to a deep playoff run, while establishing himself as one of the most complete defensive players in Arizona.
Expect big things.
After all, Kordell’s watching every move from the heavens above.