KNOXVILLE – The pro days will run together for Joe Parker this week.
On Friday, Chattanooga welcomes NFL scouts and personnel to its campus to work out Parker and other former Mocs. On Thursday, Parker was at the University of Tennessee, going through the same drills with 12 former Vols and two other players.
Parker, who played receiver at Chattanooga, said some scouts were surprised to see him at UT and double-checked with him to make sure he’d be at Chattanooga’s day.
Other scouts suggested to him that he ought to be in Knoxville, too.
“I know a couple scouts wanted me to try to come out and do Tennessee’s pro day,” Parker said. “It’s more of controlled environment because it’s inside.”
Whatever the environment, wherever the place, if NFL personnel are watching, Parker wants to be seen.
“As many people that can you see you, the better,” he said.
The thought was shared by the others in attendance. As pro days go, this one looked more like off-Broadway than a main event. But it suited the purposes of these players, who are crisscrossing the country to serve their aspirations.
Tennessee defensive lineman Kyle Phillips’ schedule has been similar to Parker’s. He went to a regional combine in Kansas City last weekend that all 32 teams attended.
“I got to do a little pre-pro day before pro day,” he said. “Get as many eyes on you as possible because at this point in time, it’s about getting exposure.”
Former teammate Jonathan Kongbo’s exposure Thursday was limited by the serious knee injury (torn ACL and MCL) he suffered last season. Still, he came and did the bench press.
“There’s no words (to describe) how hungry I am,” he said. “I just need a shot, an opportunity.”
Since Parker has been working with former UT quarterback Keller Chryst in suburban Denver, they flew into town together a week ago and finalized their preparations for Thursday.
“Tennessee has been incredible with their hospitality,” Parker said. “They let me use what I needed, do whatever I needed. It was incredible.”
The 5-foot-10 Parker, who’s from Castle Rock, Colorado, transferred to Chattanooga from Wyoming two years ago. In two seasons with the Mocs, he caught 74 passes, averaged 11.4 yards per reception and scored five touchdowns.
Thursday was Parker’s first time through the process. He said the experience was draining rather than nerve-wracking.
“I wouldn’t say nervous because no moment is too big,” he said. “This is where I want to be, this is what I want to do, so I feel comfortable.
“But it’s definitely a different experience and you are gassed by the end of it.”
In this case, it was a learning experience as well. Parker will watch his footwork on Friday’s vertical jump.
“I jumped like a 38 (inch) vertical but they caught my left foot pivoting,” he said. “So they brought me down to my first touch, which was only 31 ½.
“I guess you can’t pivot at all.”
Being a lower-profile prospect from a smaller school, Parker was more focused on running good pass routes and catching every pass. Mission accomplished.
With that his first eye test was finished. Friday awaits.
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Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri who covered University of Tennessee athletics for the Knoxville News Sentinel from 1988-2019. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org