East Hall High’s Austin Parker could easily be one of the nation’s best high school quarterbacks, yet he’s scarcely known outside of Northeast Georgia. That has been a source of incredible frustration for Vikings coach Bryan Gray, who finds himself having to market a player with superior talent and all the accolades.
Despite wrapping up his career in 2017 with the state’s second-most passing yards in a single season (4,563), colleges have not made Parker a recruiting target.
“It’s very frustrating,” Gray said about his three-year starter at quarterback. “Every school in the country now has his (highlight) tape.”
With a 537-yard night passing in his final high school game in the second round of the playoffs on Nov. 18, Parker finished his senior season with a new Hall County record. He’s less than 200 yards behind Griffin’s Tylan Morton (2016) for the state record for single-season yards, according to the Georgia High School Football Historians Associations.
Quietly under the radar of national recruiting attention, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Parker finished in single-season passing yardage ahead of Gainesville High graduate Deshaun Watson (a first-round NFL pick in 2017 by the Houston Texans), Jake Fromm (who starts as a freshman at Georgia) and the state’s career passing leader Trevor Lawrence (who is committed to Clemson).
“It’s very humbling to put up those kind of stats,” said Parker. “It’s not something I kept up with during the season, but definitely means a lot to me.”
On top of that, Parker has an advanced knowledge of playing quarterback, makes good grades and is the most selfless of teammates, his coach said. Still no college offers.
So what gives?
“Everyone thinks you have to be 6-4, 220 to be a quarterback,” said Gray. “Colleges think he’s too skinny, too short.
“I know someone is going to sign him to play and he’s going to win them a lot of football games.”
Parker said the lack of college attention isn’t deterring his plans of playing football at the next level. His favorites so far are Middle Tennessee State, Georgia State and Wake Forest.
Once Thanksgiving passes, Gray said his work will go into overdrive with sending out more film and fielding any questions about the Vikings’ quarterback who guided the program to its first playoff victory since 1993. Parker plans on playing for the Vikings’ basketball program this season, then making any trips to prospective colleges that arise in the spring to speak with football coaches.
Right now, there are no plans for Parker to make anything official Feb. 7 with the rest of the country’s best prospects on National Signing Day, despite better numbers than most. Even though he didn’t take a snap his freshman season, Parker finished his career with 9,546 yards, which is fifth-most in state history.
East Hall’s coach added that Parker’s numbers were slightly limited since he didn’t play the second half three times this season, due to a mercy rule already in the team’s favor. As a junior, Parker missed 1 1/2 games due to an injury to his ribs.
On top of that, Gray said Parker has all the intangibles for a college prospect at quarterback: Vision, speed, arm strength and leadership.
The Vikings’ quarterback developed a knack for adjusting to every defensive scheme thrown his way, in hopes of keeping their spread offense from zipping up and down the field.
“Austin is a true dual-threat quarterback,” Gray said “He can sit in the pocket and throw, but can also run with it.”
The long list of accomplishments for Parker are not just in the numbers. He orchestrated East Hall’s win against No. 7 Morgan County to open the 2017 postseason — its first win against a ranked opponent since 2000 — and nearly knocked off Westminster in the second round of state.
Parker also drew classmate and basketball standout Sedrion Morse, who produced almost 1,300 yards receiving in 2017, onto the football field for his final two years of high school. The Vikings’ quarterback was also a driving force behind organizing offseason 7-on-7 drills.
Never once, according to Gray, was Parker’s motivation the individual accolades that come to successful quarterbacks.
“Austin’s never said a word about his stats or how many touchdowns he has,” Gray said. “He’s a confident kid but has zero arrogance.”
Even when Parker threw a pair of interceptions against Westminster, including one that was returned for a touchdown, the Vikings’ coach said his quarterback never hung his head.
“I never once saw him get frustrated in that game,” Gray said.
Parker asserted himself as the starting quarterback going into the 2015 season, beating out Gainesville High move-in Markese Jackson, who many thought would fit into the starting role. Jackson went on to be a leading receiver for the Vikings for two seasons.
Once Parker ran with the starting quarterback job, he was coached up by Gray’s father, Howard, who is a retired college coach and works with the Vikings’ program strictly in a volunteer role each fall.