Photo by Morgan Plunkett
“One kick and you’re a celebrity!” Marketing teacher Mercedes Rasmussen says.
Junior Parker Willis gives a small smile, a soft laugh and stands up from his seat to walk over to the door. He accepts yet another pass for yet another interview with the local news. Just days after Willis’s school record setting 56-year kick, everyone from the PV Post to Fox4 KC has tried to get an interview with Willis.
But this “fame” is new to Willis, and so are Friday night lights.
“People just found out who I am this week” Willis said. “Now people look at me in the halls and say ‘hi’ just because I had one kick. It’s kind of weird.”
Once a soccer player, Willis tried out for kicker freshman year. He then started attending Kohl’s training camps across the country, and made varsity his junior year. Now, students chanting “PAR-ker WIL-lis” can be heard through the stands, a surprise to Willis. But Willis doesn’t strive for screaming students or high-fives in the hallway; he’s just a football player.
“His character is pretty awesome.” Senior football player Jack Workman said. “He’s a real stand up guy and a class act. He can kick the crap out of the ball…and those two don’t come together very often.”
Fast forward to mid-season. The Lancers have possession — 56 yards from the goal posts.
“All of the sudden, I hear ‘Willis! Get in there!’ from Coach Delaney,” Willis said. “And I am just thinking, this kick is so far. I’ve made 60-yard kicks in practice, but it’s different under the pressure of a game.”
Willis walks onto the finished stretching, takes a breath, and kicks — just like normal, just like it’s practice.
The ball sails 56 yards through the air and goes through the uprights.
Willis is swarmed by teammates; the football players give him high-fives and head-bumps. His parents, Heidi and Matt, are congratulated by fellow Lancer fans.
“I knew he could do it.” Special Teams Coach Brandon May said.
But while fans roared, Willis wasn’t focused on the record or the score.
“I wasn’t thinking about making the goal or what I had just done.” Willis said. “I was just celebrating with the guys.”
And that’s how Willis rolls.
In addition to football, Willis is also involved in KC K-Life, a christian youth organization. K-Life helps to enhance kids’ understanding of the Bible, and also helps to build character, something Wills come by naturally.
“Yes, the kid is a stud who probably has reasons to have an inflated ego, but he doesn’t carry himself that way,” K-Life leader Scott Caldwell said. “It’s his humility that allows him to perform and yet shrug off the success without letting it build his pride.”
While he’s not kicking record-setting kicks, Willis can be seen off the field, hanging out with the football players on the sidelines and joking around. ”
And Caldwell admires this about Willis: his ability to show compassion and kindness where ever his is — be it the football field or the K-Life house.
“I love that I see him treating people with compassion and kindness wherever he is,” Caldwell said. “He’s the kind of leader who leads by his actions, and he’s the kind of guy that I would want to surround myself with if I were in high school… And that will lead him far in life.”
In addition to people skills, Willis also holds true potential in college football, something he has expressed interest in, since joining the football team.
“The kick will help his exposure to college football teams. If Parker keeps working hard the sky’s the limit.” May said. “I sure would like to see him kicking on Saturday’s!”