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Steven Parker on Growing Up in a Football Family

This is the fourth installment of "Why We Play," a series of discussions with current players and NFL Legends about their youth football experience and why they play the game. 

Steven Parker jokes, kind of, that the training program he went through as a six-year old was just as tough as what he went through in college at Oklahoma University or in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.

“I was training like I was already in the NFL,’’ Parker said of when he began playing football in first grade. “Pops used to get me up at 6 in the morning and take me on mile runs. I would do push-ups and sit-ups, running hills. I was doing college type workouts. I loved it.’’

Parker, who just finished his first season in the league as a safety with the Dolphins after a year on the Los Angeles Rams practice squad in 2018, grew up in a football family. His father, Seven Parker Sr., played football at Oklahoma State and his grandfather, Charles Parker, helped break the color barrier at Oklahoma University as one of the first African-Americans to play for the Sooners. 

“Football was huge in my family,’’ Parker says. “I felt like football was a place where I created so many different relationships. It wasn’t just about ball, it was about building those relationships and being able to play and see how other people respond to team sports. There’s no easy road, but that’s the beauty of it.’’

Growing up in Jenks, Oklahoma, Parker played more than football. He was into basketball, ran track and played a little baseball as well. Football, especially the youth football teams he played on in Jenks, set the standard for him. 

“Football helped me to be successful in so many other sports,’’ Parker said. “And youth football to me was just a bridge into everything. From the camps all the way to Mighty Mite football, starting out with those kids, there was just so much going on that was just good for me.

“Youth football helped me to get to this level where I am now. Youth football changed the path for me. It made everything fun. And it made everything more clear for me. My whole life I always dreamed of being in the NFL. And playing youth football helped me get there, but it also helped me in more ways than just playing football.’’

Parker points out the hard work it took, the teamwork, the lifelong friends he made as to how important youth football and youth sports were to him. One of those other youngsters was current Atlanta Falcons tight end Carson Meier, who played against Parker when they were young, and played together at Oklahoma.

When he can, Parker goes back and talks to today's youth about what it takes to make it and how what they are doing can help them.   

“I try to go back as much as possible and talk (to the kids),’’ he said. “I usually go back as soon as the season is over. The biggest thing for me is to go back and see the kids and be an inspiration to them. Let them know people care, but you need to know the type of work you need to put in, you have to go and earn it. You have to give them the real, so they know what they’re working to achieve.’’