No one who has seen Dickinson’s Montel Parker, the 2017 Galveston County football player of the year, play can deny his talent, but this season Parker was put through a grueling test of mental fortitude.
Before Parker’s senior season began, the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey devastated the Dickinson community. Dickinson was the Galveston County city hit hardest by Harvey, and Parker, like many others, lost his home and most of his possessions in the flood.
“I lost my whole house, my car,” Parker said. “My mom lost half of her clothes, I lost half of my clothes. It affected my life kind of hard.”
With his life turned upside down, Parker had to somehow return to normality. A big part of that continuing to excel on the football field.
“Even though we had all that stuff that hit us, I just wanted to be the best player that I could for the team,” Parker said. “When I’m on the football field, I have the coaches like my family, my brothers on the football team like my family. So, that kind of takes my mind off everything and just have fun doing what I love to do.”
“It made me stronger and re-focused,” Parker added. “Our whole community came together when that happened. We worked tearing boards down and stuff like that. It just made me stronger and made me never want to quit, because life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you respond to it.”
A four-year varsity player, Parker didn’t skip a beat from the get-go in the 2017 season, remaining the most versatile and dangerous weapon in the Gators’ arsenal on offense.
“Montel is a very dynamic kid,” Dickinson head coach John Snelson said. “Just the threat of him being on the field made defenses play us differently. Having a kid that is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the football, it definitely makes you feel good as an offensive football team, and it’s tough on the defensive guys.”
Dickinson coaches utilized Parker in a multitude of ways, and Parker shined in whatever his role was. Starting the season at his natural position of wide receiver, Parker was apt at both moving the chains or as a threat in the passing game, and was able to rack up chunks of yards as a runner on jet sweeps. He also returned kicks for the Gators.
When starting quarterback Cameron Collins and backup Mike Welch both went down with injuries, Parker was asked to fill in at that position, starting with a highly successful showing against Clear Creek.
“I just wanted to do anything to help the team win,” Parker said.
It was a move also made last season, but unlike in years past, Snelson said Parker fully embraced the opportunity this year.
“He was never anti-quarterback with us, but it was never what he really wanted to do, and this year was the first time he was like, ‘Yeah, coach. I’m really ready for that,’” Snelson said. “And he just went to work. Obviously, he’s very dynamic with his legs, but he was much more confident in his own passing ability. He had a good knowledge of the offense and did a really good job for us.”
For the fifth straight year under Snelson and for the fourth time in Parker’s career, the Gators reached the postseason, where they logged a playoff win (as has happened in all four of Parker’s seasons) before bowing out against a tough Atascocita team.
“My senior year, I grew up a lot and became a good leader to my teammates, to my brothers, and learned to just have fun and play my heart out for them, because they’re going to do the same,” Parker said. “
In all, Parker logged 1,211 yards of total offense with 14 touchdowns, fairly evenly spread out as a passer, runner and receiver. For his efforts, Parker was named the most valuable player in District 24-6A. What statistics and awards can’t measure, though, was the monumental effort to overcome Harvey’s wrath.
“This year was a tough one on all of us, but especially Montel,” Snelson said. “Harvey destroyed pretty much all of his belongings, and we had a couple of generous families that he was able to stay with, and they took care of him. He was very lucky to have them in his life, and we were very lucky that they were willing to do that for him.
“But, it’s kind of like a camping trip,” Snelson added. “It’s fun for the first couple of days, but then you’re ready to go home, and there just wasn’t a home for him to go back to. That fact really weighed on all of us. For him and other young men to deal with that on our team, I’m very, very proud of them.”
After losing his home, Parker was taken in by the family of teammate Landon Roque, as well as the Blasberg family, who join his mother and godfather to be a rock-solid support system for Parker.
“It’s awesome, they all treat me like I’m their own child,” Parker said. “I know I can call any one of the families, and they’ll be there for me.”
For his next chapter in life, Parker will be joining the Texas A&M football program at what he describes as his dream school.