Jesse Parker was hoping he could take a couple months this summer and fall to help out some longtime friends. He wanted to be incognito. Made it for about a month.
Parker is helping out with the varsity football team in Willcox this year. It's a favor to coach Jack Kortsen and assistant Doug Dunlap, who enlisted Parker's help and expertise after a couple summers helping with camps in the White Mountains.
Kortsen, is the new head coach and worked the last three years as an assistantat Willcox. He and fellow assistant Dunlap needed someone experienced coaching linemen. They finally coaxed Parker to come down from Mesa and White Mountains to aid this year.
Parker, 74, doesn't consider himself a bonafide assistant on the staff.
“I see myself more as a mentor for coaches teaching line play,” Parker said. “They don't have experience with line play so I agreed to help. I worked with a lot of these kids at camps the last couple years. They are great kids. Easy to talk to. And they listen. There's an innocence to them you don't find at a big school in the big city.”
This is the first time Parker, who has won five state titles in Arizona (four at Mountain View and one at Camelback) plus 309 career wins, has worked in a small school program in his coaching career that dates back to the 1960s. Willcox may start three freshmen, something that likely would never have happened at a Mtn. View or Gilbert.
There was an inkling Perry High football coach Preston Jones had last week that he had seen Parker on film, but Jones decided early on it couldn't have been the legendary coach. Jesse Parker? In Willcox? Nah.
“You know there was a guy on the film wearing sweatpants and standing close to the sideline, even on the field a couple yards,” Jones said. “It kind of looked like Jesse. I'll have to go back and look.”
However, upon hearing that Parker's name appeared in the Arizona Range News, a local paper in Willcox where Parker was identified as a coach at the school, Jones rewound the film.
And confrirmed the suspicion. That was indeed Jesse. Will leave him alone to enjoy another season in a very different, but comfortable role in a small town not unlike one he grew up in.