San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eric Parker is like a fine cabernet. He keeps getting better with age. Overlooked in the 2002 NFL draft, Parker made the Chargers roster right out of college after a brief stopover in Houston. He got his feet wet during his rookie campaign, playing mostly on the special teams. But with each passing year he has increased his reception total. Last year was Parker¹s best. He hauled in 57 aerials covering 725 yards and scored three touchdowns.
At an even six feet and 180 pounds, Parker looks like somebody¹s kid brother when lining up next to the behemoth NFL lineman that play with and against him every Sunday. But Parker¹s heart is enormous both on and off the field. On it, he has developed into a clutch receiver. Off of it, he has become an emerging leader among the team¹s Christian players. Parker spoke first about his religious upbringing.
³My parents always had good teachings, but they weren¹t necessarily church goers every Sunday. Something sparked that interest. It was something I was searching for. I found it and life has been a blessing ever since. When you catch that fever, you gotta go,² Parker said.
Parker caught ³the fever² during his senior year at the University of Tennessee. He might have caught it somewhat earlier had not some well-meaning people approached him in the wrong way.
³A lot of people came up to me, but they approached me the wrong way, telling me where I was going to go (to hell) as if they were so perfect. That really turned me off. My parents taught me Scripture (by example) without ever teaching me Scripture (directly).² Once Parker started reading the Bible himself, everything fell into place. ³The same principles they were teaching me were coming straight out of the Bible,² he realized.
Parker believes that the way to reach people is by taking a non-judgmental approach and by sharing one¹s testimony.
³Instead of telling me that I am going to hell, tell me what you have been through in your life and maybe then we can relate. That is what Jesus wants us to do. He blesses us with people and he wants us to be kind. Don¹t tell me what I am doing wrong. I know what I am doing wrong. Tell me what you have done and tell me how I can help you and how you can help me. That¹s what people need to understand.²
Parker considers the San Diego Charger locker room his home away from home. His is a close-knit team. And caring for one another is something that this team does well. Heading his Charger ³family² is the team¹s dynamic chaplain, Pastor Shawn Mitchell.
³Pastor Mitchell is a very energetic man and one who is full of life. He is always ready to listen to what you have to say. He is willing to open up to us and he shows us his path. He will tell us what he has gone through and how he has handled it. And he always tells us to keep our heads up because this is not the last obstacle that we are going to go through or the last glory that we are going to reach.²
Parker has found that the countless hours he spends training can sometimes be a very spiritual experience.
³My thing is working out. I find working out to be very motivational. I think it is one way of reaching your full potential. It is just you and God and through his help and your deepest desire you can achieve your full potential. You will often get guys that want to workout with you.²
Parker will sometimes use that opportunity to advise his usually younger training partners in the ways of the Lord.
³I just tell them, this is what I have been through, maybe you can take something from my life. I don¹t want to call it a ministry. It is just my way of telling them that this is what has helped me, I hope that it can help you. Just give it a try.²