COLUMBIA — They were going to go to Nashville anyway, a guy’s trip to celebrate his son’s birthday and Father’s Day in one weekend, but being that close, Brad White thought, “Why not?”
Parker White finished his first season as South Carolina’s place-kicker very well, but the rough start sagged his overall numbers to the point where the Wando High School graduate's hold on the spot was tenuous at best. The misses weren’t all his fault — Will Muschamp blamed himself for perhaps giving White too much too soon, and special teams ace Coleman Hutzler said that some of the holds and snaps were off — but in the age of social media, the barbs hurled after every miss stung.
Brad figured while Parker was working throughout the summer to improve, even a weekend off could include some devotion to the craft. Who better to help out than a guy in Nashville who just happened to be an ex-Gamecock and spends his fall weekends booting field goals for the Tennessee Titans?
“Parker’s dad got in touch with the Titans, they asked me if I would mind working with him for a day or two, and I said, ‘Absolutely!,” Ryan Succop said. “Being a fellow Gamecock, I was glad they asked me.”
Succop left USC in 2008 with his name all over the record book and he remains tied for two of the three longest field goals in school history. Taken with the last pick of the draft, Succop is entering his 10th NFL season as one of the most successful “Mr. Irrelevants” to ever play.
It worked out well, Succop even saving the Whites a trip to Nashville since he was vacationing with his family on the coasts of North and South Carolina. Succop found an open field at Murrells Inlet’s St. James High and the Whites drove to meet him.
The first thing Succop noticed — strength wasn’t the problem. Parker’s leg posted some of the best kickoff numbers in college football last season.
So he went back to basics.
“One of the things you can’t really work on is distance. That kind of comes with just being older, getting stronger,” Succop said. “Some technique stuff I know that has benefited me and learned over the years, that’s what we mostly worked on.”
Sticking to around the 45-to-50-yard markers (White’s numbers were golden inside the 40 last year), the two broke down Parker’s approach. It began with the warmup — nothing against the group exercises every player does before a game, but Succop always found his body needed something else.
“An active warmup is a lot better for me than just cult stretching. There are 8-10 exercises that I’ll do,” Succop said. “I’ve sort of self-taught the majority of my career, finding out what my body naturally wants to do.”
The approach looked good, the kicks looked good. So what was the problem?
Nothing, really. Just sometimes it doesn’t go through, and no matter if the snap, hold, distance, wind, weather is a factor, all people see is a missed kick. And these days, everybody has an outlet that everybody else can read.
“I didn’t get to see every game, but from what I could see, I felt like Parker kicked pretty well,” Succop said. “Even at this level, a 54-yarder is really tough. It just comes down to chance a lot of times. That can shake your confidence, but that doesn’t mean you’re hitting the ball poorly. You hit a good ball, but it doesn’t go in, come back and get the next one.”
White shrugged off the criticism during spring ball and welcomed the competition, such as the kicker he replaced (Alexander Woznick) and fifth-year transfer Shane Hynes. Brad said his son has been working out every day with the team, kicking as often as he can, and that he’s taking the same approach as last year — the job is completely open and the coaches will pick the guy who makes the most kicks.
“He’s fine with it, he mentioned it in other interviews,” Brad said. “All the kickers are friends off the field and competitive on it. The best guy comes out on top.”
Succop liked what he saw. Parker was attentive and listened when he should have, asked questions when he should have.
He’ll take what he gleaned from the workout into preseason camp on Aug. 2.
Succop won’t be able to attend USC’s game in Nashville on Sept. 22 (at Vanderbilt) because the Titans are at Jacksonville, but he always pulls for the Gamecocks and will be cheering Parker on in spirit. The struggles of last year will remain in last year.
“We didn’t really change anything drastic, it was just a few things here or there, or some things mentality-wise I’ve learned,” Succop said. “A lot of that just takes time. He really wanted to learn. He was open to some of the things I was working on.”
Parker’s become close friends with a Gamecock kicker that made it in the NFL and Elliott Fry, the program’s career-leading scorer.
Now to place his name among theirs, and not only in a group text.