Coach’s Corner is a weekly feature at Outside the Huddle written by Kevin Merz, former Bishop Dwenger quarterback and North Side offensive coordinator.
I sent a text after working the Jason Baker Pro Football Camp a few years back to a local high school coach that simply said “this kid East Noble is about to get is PERFECT fundamentally.”
I was correct, but he is so much more than that.
That “kid” was a then-8th grader at the time named Bailey Parker.
I immediately followed up with the same message being sent out to Coach Luke Amstutz and a few other coaching buddies of mine as I marveled at what I had just witnessed.
The camp was a fantastic thing in Fort Wayne, allowing kids the opportunity to come to a well-run NFL-caliber operation for free if they were willing to complete a service project in the morning as their “entry fee.”
The camp attracted kids from all walks of life and skill levels, but for the most part it tended to be geared toward a beginners level of fundamental skill training.
I ran the QB station that year with Coach Tim Martone from Northrop and former Bishop Dwenger offensive coordinator Cory Kitchen.
I remember watching a tall, lanky kid come to our station and listen attentively as we covered the basics of hand placement, ball security, throwing motion, etc.
The first time Parker picked up a football and threw it, heads turned from all three coaches to look at him, then back again to each other.
The drills we accomplished for the next 15 minutes were far too basic for him, but he never acted once like he was above them. He encouraged other kids in the group, helped one kid with hand placement on the football and did everything that was asked of him in that short time frame.
Parker was tall and well balanced, throwing perfect spiral after perfect spiral with a follow through from his back to front foot as pronounced as former Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn’s where his back foot would come off the ground during the finish of the throw.
As the 15 minutes concluded, all three of us coaches spoke to him as a group. I can’t tell you with much accuracy what we said to him, but I can tell you with certainty that he shook each one of our hands with a firm handshake and looked all three grown men in the eyes as he did it.
From that summer day on I was rooting for Bailey Parker.
Over 4,300 yards, 57 touchdowns, and nearly five years later, Parker looks to lead a team and a town starved to recapture the success of years past to their second state title and cement his own legacy.
“Lead” is the key word there…
Bailey is a leader and in 15 minutes several years ago he left an impression on me that will never be forgotten.
He is the lead contractor for one of the most creative offensive architects in the state.
He is the heart and soul of Knights football.
He would be elected to office in Kendallville tomorrow if they let him run!
He is one heck of a QB, but more importantly from every account of him I’ve ever heard, he’s one heck of a person.
East Noble fans, rest easy during this state title game on Saturday knowing you have a true leader playing the most important position on the field.
Stay calm knowing that if he turns it over early like he did last week, he always will find a way to fix it.
Stay positive knowing you have Coach Amstutz running that program the way a program should be run 365 days a year.
Above all else, win or lose, hang around after the game as I have a feeling Bailey will be joining Jeff Wedding (2003 East Noble QB) as the schools’ second “IHSAA Mental Attitude Award Winner” in their program’s rich history.
Good luck to the Knights and specifically good luck Bailey, I’m rooting for you…
…Just as I have since you shook my hand that summer day and every day since.
Coach’s Corner appears every Monday during the prep football season at Outside the Huddle. These opinions represent those of the writer. No opinions expressed on Outside the Huddle represent those of any of our advertisers.