Lineman keeps loyalty intact

Kyle Sentkowski’s 30-yard field goal broke a 14-all tie, but the Hornets did not have the lead for long. The Cardinals scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes of the first half to take a 28-17 lead to the locker room.

Mike Cody swears he did not have an ulterior motive in calling Jake Parks last September after the UC Davis guard learned his left fibula was broken. The 2022 season ended for Parks shortly after it started.

Parks went down in the season-opening 34-13 loss at Cal. He was not told about the severity of his injury until the next day. Parks was still digesting the bad news when Cody, the offensive line coach, called.

Jake Parks had no thoughts of leaving UC Davis after breaking his left leg in the 2022 opener and missing the rest of the season.

The Sept. 3 game in Berkeley could have been Parks’ last as an Aggie. The injury gave him  time to consider his options, one of them being to play elsewhere for his final season as a graduate transfer.

The only move Parks has made this season is from right guard to right tackle. He had started at guard since 2018, when he was a true freshman and the Aggies earned a share of the Big Sky Conference championship.

Look for No. 60 on Saturday night when the Aggies come home after a 1-1 start on the road to face Southern Utah. Cody is now the Aggies offensive coordinator and is thankful to have the senior as an anchor on the line.

“It wasn’t any question for Jake,” said Cody, who was a receiver with the Aggies in 2010-11. “In this day and age of college football, it’s tough to come back because guys want to leave for another school. Jake could play at 100 schools, but he’s very loyal. He wants to finish what he started here.” 

Cody had no intention during the call last September to broach the subject of Parks’ future and did not need to do it anyway. Parks beat him to it by answering the question without Cody having to ask it.

His degree in human development gave Parks a ticket to ride out of Davis. Tackle Kooper Richardson departed after the 2020 season to join his father Kris and younger brother Kaden at Sacramento State.

By the way, human development was not Parks’ original choice for a major. He declared for neurobiology, physiology and behavior, but that ambitious major is as difficult to navigate as it is to say five times fast.

And that is for a student who does not have to juggle practices, team meetings and weekend travel with studying. Parks can speak from experience because he was that student last year – with a broken leg.

Any athlete who has had a season-ending injury can attest to the feeling of being disconnected from teammates and coaches. There is also the inherent fear of losing playing time or a starting job.

The 6-foot-3, 285-pound Parks remained connected to the team by becoming a mentor for the offensive linemen. That was easier said than done because he wanted nothing more than to be smashing people.

“It was a big learning experience for me. I had to learn a new role for myself,” Parks said. “I did what I could to help the team and the offensive line. I still stay invested in the guys. They knew I was always there.”

Even as a senior, Parks has not changed his hairstyle since going with a mullet in 2018. He had no choice because he was a freshman and the older linemen thought mullets showed they were “down and dirty.”

“It was funny,” Parks said. “I’m going to be in the real world pretty soon, so you might as well have fun with it.”

Last Saturday’s game at Oregon State was not at all fun for the Aggies, who were routed 55-7 by the 16th-ranked Beavers in their worst loss to a Pac 12 team since losing 45-0 to Stanford in 2014.

“I told him I want to be here. He told to take my time because there was a lot to process,” Parks said. “I never had a thought about leaving here. The people and the culture of the program are why I want to stay.”