Senior Bowl: Stetson's Parham a small-school find
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - If the measuring stick was touchdown celebrations, Donald Parham may not be NFL material.
The former Stetson tight end is not part of the Fun Bunch, doesn't own a pair of Billy's white shoes and has never had a Rod Tidwell moment.
But there is a lot NFL teams like about him. At 6-foot-8, a real lot.
This week, they're taking a closer look at Parham at the Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. He's just the second player from the Pioneer Football League to be invited to college football's premier all-star game, following another tight end, Drake's Eric Saubert in 2017.
Parham's message leading into Saturday's game? "That I belong there basically," he said. "Yeah, I came from a small school, but that doesn't affect how I'm able to play and the level of skill that I have."
His do-your-job style and act-like-you've-been-there humility belie Parham's production. This past season, he joined James Madison senior cornerback Jimmy Moreland as the only consensus FCS All-Americans.
Parham didn't make it close for other tight ends. He caught 85 passes for 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns in only nine games as Stetson finished 8-2 and was the second most-improved team in the subdivision. He capped his incredible season on Stetson senior day with 12 reception for a school-record 257 yards as well as three TDs against Valparaiso. It raised his career totals to 180 receptions, 2,591 receiving yards and 20 touchdown receptions - all school marks.
"Small schools hardly ever get recognized throughout the season, especially coming from Stetson," he said. "We didn't go to the playoffs, so we weren't in the limelight during those times. I have to make sure I always put my best foot forward and applying myself whenever I get my opportunity in front of scouts."
With Parham, a one-time basketball player, a trim 225 pounds, scouts will want to see his strength level and blocking skills this week. He flashed soft hands at Stetson and ate up yardage with his long strides.
The next level will test him.
"I'm a first down-kind of guy. I get you that first down on third down," Parham said. "I'm a deep threat when it's needed.
"My upper level is always there," he added. "It's just a matter of good technique and also getting my lower body overall stronger."
The NFL Draft will be held from April 25-27. The Pioneer League has raised its profile in recent years, including with Saubert, who plays for the Atlanta Falcons. Just two years ago, he and cornerback/kick returner Jamal Agnew, a Detroit Lions pick from the University of San Diego, gave the league a pair of draft picks in the same year for the first time.
That same class produced Parham's former Stetson teammate Donald Payne, a hybrid linebacker for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He's been advising Parham to always do extra and stay focused on his goal.
"I just see it as a challenge and another obstacle I have to get past," Parham said. "I just have to make sure that I'm mentally ready for it and making sure I'm getting my body is right as well. I'm really excited for the opportunity."
FCS Players at 70th Reese's Senior Bowl
Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama
2:30 p.m. ET (NFL Network)
North (coach Jon Gruden): Delaware S Nasir Adderley (uniform number 23); South Dakota State CB Jordan Brown 11); UC Davis WR Keelan Doss (8); Stetson TE Donald Parham (49); Western Illinois DT Khalen Saunders (99); Northern Colorado WR Alex Wesley (81)
South (coach Kyle Shanahan): North Dakota State RB Bruce Anderson (4); Jacksonville State OG B.J. Autry (79); Alabama State OT Tytus Howard (58); James Madison CB Jimmy Moreland (17); Elon OT Oli Udoh (73)
Updated January 22, 2019