Overlooking the city of Philadelphia, Will Parks rested his face on the hotel balcony ledge as tears fell from his eyes. With the 219th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos selected the safety from the UA.
“First person I looked at was my dad,” Parks said. “We shed our tears and then we got to celebrating. On that third day, I had a feeling in my mind that somebody was going to call. I wanted to go to the Broncos, I felt like it was already written.”
Surrounded by close to 250 family members and friends, Parks engulfed the excitement in the air.
“Coming from where I come from, it’s crazy,” Parks said at the time in a documentary video. “I don’t even know what’s going on right now.”
Then he got to work. The 6-foot-1 rookie from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania made a name for himself quickly on special teams and became a part of the Broncos secondary which goes by the monaker, ‘No Fly Zone’. He finished this season with 22 total tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery.
“The ball bounced right to me,” Parks said. “I was like, oh snap, I got the ball. I ran down the field as fast as I could. I scored and we won the game.”
The 84-yard two-point conversion came against the New Orleans Saints in a 25-23 come from behind victory. Parks was featured on SportsCenter and the highlight was shown all over the country. While some claim it was controversial, he is adamant that he never stepped out of bounds.
“I was not out,” Parks said. “If I was out, they would have called it.”
For Parks, mantra is everything. He lives by one: secure the bag.
“Whatever you have to do in that moment, you gotta make sure you secure [the bag],” Parks said.
It’s what has lead him to become one of the key contributors as part of the Broncos secondary.
“Those guys are tremendous,” Parks said. “Those guys helped me become a better player. I love those guys.”
Yet, nothing has come easy. He knows first-hand of the potentially ruthless Philadelphia life.
“At one point in my life, I was living in a two-bedroom home with six people,” Parks said. “My mom was laid off 10-12 years, we lived off bar tips. It was rough man.”
More so, he has watched countless family members and friends succumb to a life of violence.
“I lost so many childhood friends to violence,” Parks said. “I lost five or six people who got killed, three or four doing life sentences. They are all watching. On my dad’s side, we got about four or five uncles doing life sentences. For me to not go down that route, just means so much.”
One of the people who helped bring him out of that life was Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez wound up taking a second chance on Parks after he decommitted from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011.
“Rich Rod groomed me in so many ways,” Parks said. “That guy loved me and I loved him. He said, ‘I know you come from a significant struggle man, and this will be the way out.’ It changed my life the moment I landed [in Tucson].”
Parks was a huge advocate this past season for Rodriguez and the Arizona football team via social media despite their struggles.
“It taught me how to be a better person,” Parks said. “Tucson means so much more to me than anyone can imagine. They always had my back from day one. It is my second home.”
Parks is nothing but thankful for the opportunities he’s been given by the Broncos.
“When I first came in, I was actually here,” Parks said. “I was in the building. I was able to walk around with legends and pro-bowlers. The organization is well-rounded and everybody has a purpose.”
Most rookies rarely see game time in the National Football League, let alone sixth round draft picks. Parks came in with the attitude to succeed starting day one.
“I’m a dog,” Parks said. “I’m a wolf. I’m a savage. I’m a hyena. As long I’m alive, there’s not going to be one person that is going to outwork me. That’s how I approach my life, my bills, my game. That’s how you are going to survive.”
Much of that survival instinct goes back to his obstacles he faced when he was younger. It’s what pushed him to move his brother out of Philadelphia after he was “locked up” for two months.
“I’m able to take care of my family,” Parks said. “He grew up without a dad, who has been incarcerated since he was little. It’s brings joy to me that he doesn’t have to live in that situation anymore. He’s doing what he is supposed to do. I’m most proud of him, just to take care of the people you want to take care of.”
For Parks, big things await. His second season in the Broncos and some down time with family and friends.
“Excited for more life and more big plays,” Parks said. “We out there vibing with the ‘No Fly Zone’. That’s what you are going to look forward to.”
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