CLEMSON -- You can tell Kyle Parker is a VIP in Clemson and its suburbs because so many people around these parts know the quarterback/outfielder by his initials. Even former NFL wide receiver Carl Parker referred to his son as "KP" in a live ESPN interview during the College World Series.
And some of us actually think the Colorado Rockies' first-round draft pick is a better college football player than he is a college baseball player. Count Dabo Swinney "all in" on that one.
But Swinney raised the bar Sunday when asked if Parker is a National Football League prospect.
"He could make a 53-man roster," the Clemson head football coach said, "this summer."
As in 2010.
Same league as Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and that old guy in Minnesota.
"You just don't see many guys who can process the game like he can, and can throw the football like he can," Swinney said. "He plays 6-5."
At 6-1, 200, Parker is an undersized NFL candidate. But he is the right size for baseball and turned down the Rockies' $2.25 million baseball-only bonus offer in July, settling last week on a $1.4 million deal that allows him to play his sophomore season of football.
Obviously, Parker and those close to him believe he is good enough to eventually have an NFL option.
"I mean, who knows?" Parker said Sunday before signing lots of autographs at Clemson's annual Fan Day. "I would hope and think so. I think there's a lot of things left to determine that. It will be interesting to see after the season."
Back in 2011?
The plot thickens.
The better the 6-0, 209-pound Drew Brees did last season in leading the New Orleans Saints to Super Bowl glory, the more Parker was intrigued.
Nothing in the U.S. Constitution prevents Parker from returning to Clemson for a junior year of football in 2011. But he would have to give the Rockies some money back and make sure to complete at least 18 credit hours at Clemson.
Or Parker, as a third-year player who redshirted his first football season at Clemson, could jump into the NFL draft next April.
"He has a faster path to the pros in football," Swinney said. "It's just my opinion. Obviously, I think he realizes he's a pretty good player, too, and didn't want to close the door on it. He's highly motivated to have a great year and just continue to build leverage and options for himself down the road. But I do think that his bigger decision in life is going to be at a later time."
Some of the 20 touchdown passes Parker threw last year as a redshirt freshman were pro-caliber, like the overtime winner to Jacoby Ford at Miami.
But NFL-ready today?
"You turn on the TV and watch any NFL football, there's some bad quarterbacks in that league," Swinney said. "Some bad ones.
They'd have a hard time beating out Kyle Parker right here right now."
Brees and Favre
Dabo doesn't know the NFL that well.
But he was an assistant coach at Clemson when former Tigers quarterback Charlie Whitehurst went to the San Diego Chargers as a third-round pick.
"Similar," Swinney said. "Same type of skills."
Whitehurst is taller, a true 6-5. He currently plays for the Seattle Seahawks, acquired by new head coach Pete Carroll in the offseason to challenge for the starting job.
Parker said Sunday there are two NFL quarterbacks he "looks up to" more than others.
"A shorter guy that makes a lot of plays," Parker said.
And Brett Favre.
"How he plays the game with passion."
If Favre finally retires for good after the 2010 season, the Minnesota Vikings will have a quarterback opening. Dabo Swinney knows of a part-time outfielder that is already ready.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at firstname.lastname@example.org or (843) 937-5593.
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