Parker Henry: The Origins Of Beast Mode Revealed
There no words really that can describe what Parker Henry is doing at Skyview. I am not even sure he understands it. But if a kid can go into a zone where there is nothing but the flow of pure energy and power he must know what it is like because week after week he has been in there. That space where sound and time stop and sensation is replaced with a flash of light and a pinch of rage. That is beast mode. That is what folks around the GSHL have known for sometime to be “Parker Henry Time”. Here is the story of Parker Henry as told by local GSHL Football guys Mike Hustad. Enjoy.
Beast Mode – Parker Henry’s Explosive Ascent to Elite Status
Written by Mike Hustad on October 27, 2011
Last Friday night, I arrived at McKenzie Stadium for the second game of a doubleheader – Union vs. Evergreen. I hadn’t seen my alma mater, Evergreen, play all season which, considering the circumstances, wasn’t such a bad thing. When I arrived at the table that GSHLfootball.com owner Bryan Levesque guards with a death grip [Bryan once carried the table from the top of the road stands all the way across the field, up the stairs, and to its “home” at the top of the bleachers at the 50-yard line, by himself. This is a big, solid, table, maybe six feet wide and four feet deep...at least 50 pounds. But that is what a former glory days’ version of Evergreen inside linebacker can do.], the first thing Bryan did was point to a score on his computer screen. “Check this out,” he said. I figured he was showing me something questionable as to its significance, like what some writer in Spokane tweeted about their 3rd place team, or a random volleyball score between two Trico League teams, like he often does (he thinks it’s funny). What he was pointing to was actually the score of the Columbia River/Skyview game: “Columbia River 14, Skyview 0 – Halftime.” Like the football geeks we are, we kept glued to the screen in disbelief (we knew what Union was going to do), wondering if River had what it takes to hold on.….. Could they? Is Skyview maybe a little too finesse and overrated?
Then Parker Henry flipped the switch….
“The difference between adequacy and greatness in life is the amount of discipline one will inflict on one’s self to achieve greatness.”
On September 13, 1993, Vonna Henry was having her birthday celebration. But it was nothing like the typical birthday you would expect. Certainly, she received plenty of presents and a cake. Her family was around, there was plenty of excitement. Vonna was in the hospital and she was in a lot of pain with nurses and doctors surrounding her. That day, she was handed her only son, Parker Henry, for the first time.
He made his debut into the world and her birthday would forever be different…special…significant. And clearly, it was the best birthday she ever had. This was the beginning of a rich inheritance for Parker; he was given life, his mother’s birthday, and so much more to come in the years ahead.
“Heritage” can be defined as a gift that is passed from an ancestor to an heir through a family; an inheritance cast upon an heir that has no monetary value or significance but everything to do with character, will, determination and love. You will see this gift in this story of Parker Henry and how he has already received his inheritance from a character-rich family.
But it doesn’t end there. Many other people outside of Henry’s family have played crucial roles in him developing these gifts. This story also spotlights six of those individuals. And finally, there are a few individuals outside of the family and circle of friends that were willing to share their thoughts about Skyview’s highly explosive back and their affinity for his gifts.
I. Finding that Competitive Nature:Bill and Vonna Henry
Watching Henry do some of the things he does on the football field at times reminds his mother, Vonna, of her past. ”A long time ago when I used to figure skate, I had the same type of intensity, drive, and passion for skating that Parker has for football. I was fortunate to have worked with two coaches, a ‘figures’ (figure skating) coach and a free style coach. But they were demanding.” Vonna was more than up for the challenge, and she kept with it without any sign of quit. “I used to spend 6 hours a day after school in that cold rink 6 days a week trying to perfect my skills.” Now, if you do the math, that is from the end of the school day until bedtime for most that have school the next morning – six times a week. Vonna learned to perform with grace and excellence under pressure circumstances.
It is also no surprise that Henry’s sister, Lauren, a junior at Oregon State University, grew up competing in ice skating competitions. From early in Henry’s life, he was a witness to competition. “I always told Parker that no matter how big the moment might be in a given game, it probably wouldn’t be any more intense than the moment just prior to when his sister would start her skating program in a competition. He would observe her effort in practices and competitiveness in the events, and carry that intensity to the field,” Henry’s father, Bill, said.
When Bill is sitting at Kiggins Bowl watching Henry muscle through defenders and race down the field with speed and horsepower, it at times can bring him back in time as well. If there is anyone that knows a little about speed and horsepower, it is Bill. Bill spent a decade road racing motorcycles in organized competition up and down the west coast.
Henry picked up on this idea of racing bikes. Vonna recalls Henry would, starting in first grade, trail riding dirt bikes with his father in packs of 12-15 riders. Maybe to Bill and his friends it was a joy ride, but Henry had other ideas. “He was usually the youngest
amongst the pack of 12 to 15 riders, but even on two wheels, he would want to pass the guy in front of him,” Vonna said.
Henry started Clark County Youth Football (CCYF) in the third grade. Even in the off-season when he wasn’t playing this new sport, he needed that adrenaline rush, so he dabbled in some BMX bike racing at Alpenrose Dairy. The thirst for competition was becoming quite clear.
But after awhile, Henry decided he had had enough of racing, so then took up both baseball and basketball. Basketball didn’t go well for him. Vonna thought it might be his size at the time or he felt his jump shot just wasn’t right (or, perhaps the game wasn’t physical enough for him), so he finally narrowed it down to that one sport where he would not only excel, but end up becoming one of the better running backs this corner of the state has seen in years…
II. Learning Under One of Vancouver’s Finest: Bill Garlington
Henry’s father, Bill, didn’t play or know a whole lot about football. Henry found his niche sport on his own. He was full of natural gifts, but was very raw at the sport, as most early players are. He was about to meet a man that his father called one of the most influential men in Henry’s life: Vancouver Fire Department Captain, Bill Garlington.
Garlington has been a fire fighter for 25 years; yet, he still found time to be a CCYF Head Coach for many years. Henry began learning about the game of football, and how to excel in it, in the third grade under Coach Garlington. You could say that Garlington was a second father to Henry in a way. “Coach Garlington has had a tremendous impact on me. He was my football coach from the 4th grade to the 8th grade. I really learned how to play the game the right way through coach Garlington,” Henry said.
It could also be argued that Garlington is also a big reason why the Skyview football team has been so dominant the last few years. “He instilled manyvalues to myself and many of my teammates who still play on Skyviews team today, like respect, discipline, and competitiveness,” Henry said. “He is a great coach and person.”
When I asked Garlington for his thoughts on Henry, I was blown away by his response, like a backdraft of fire (I had to use it). The signs of Henry’s dominance and intensity on the gridiron were evident early on. In fact, Garlington had a hard time finding someone that could test Henry. “It was at times difficult to find someone in practice who could push Parker to make him better. Zack Brady, now a Skyview teammate, was one person who had the size and ability to push Parker harder at every practice. They would have some real dogfights during tackling drills.”
Garlington would go on, “Parker’s nickname on those CCYF teams was ‘Hurricane’, due to his whirlwind running style and his ability to wreak havoc. Not much has changed since moving onto the high school level. He is still ‘Hurricane’ to me.
Realizing his Tough Nature
Henry’s impressive speed made things easy for him. Basically, he could just dodge and run away from kids. Then Garlington decided to teach him a lesson that would ultimately pay dividends for the rest of his career and, if you watch the videos on this website, especially in high school. ”One game I remember in the 7th grade, Parker ran a sweep for about a 60-yard touchdown run. His speed allowed him to dance by everyone. When he returned to the bench, I got on him pretty good about his ability to ‘send a message’, and that next time he needed to run through a tackler. On the next series of plays, he did just that. He ran right through the linebacker on his way to an 80-yard touchdown. I like to think that was a turning point in his truly believing in himself and what he could do on a football field.”
It’s not all about football and running guys over for Garlington. He hopes he has helped prepared Henry for whatever path he so chooses to take. ”Parker Henry is a class act with remarkable skills both on and off the field. He will be a success in whatever path he chooses to follow in life.”
Parker’s Dad Grows to Love the Game
Bill has a lot of fond memories about watching his son grow, develop and enjoy himself in CCYF. ”In the 4th grade, he was asked to fill-out a questionnaire as to what he would bring to the team. His one word answer was simply ‘passion’.” This is a 4th-grader… And you wonder how he learned that.
“We observed him becoming very focused, and intent on meeting goals. He played CCYF every year thereafter and was coached by Bill Garlington for most of the seasons up through the 8th grade. He goes about his business quietly, and lets the results speak for themselves.”
Someone else was about to take notice of his humble, talented ways.
III. The King Meets His Queen
While CCYF was going well, in the 5th grade Henry met a female classmate of his that, to this day, would end up being one of the most important people in his life, Nikki Horner.
Nikki tells the rest: “We were friends all throughout middle School and started dating the summer before freshman year. What drew me to him was that I thought he was cute, of course. But also that he has a huge heart and is one of the most genuine people I know. He’s just an all over great guy. I don’t know if there’s anything not to like about him.”
Nikki sees in him what so many other people see in terms of his work ethic and athletic prowess: ”I have been dating parker for a little over three years. He is hands down the hardest working individual I have ever met. The passion he has for football is unreal. He knows how to put first things first and he knows what is important to him. He never gives anything less than 100% on and off the field. One of the things I love about him most is how humble he is about all of his accomplishments. He is truly amazing and I could never ask for a better guy.”
“Humble” would be the word. Parker and Nikki had an incredible moment not long ago when they were crowned Homecoming King and Queen. ”Being crowned homecoming queen and king this year was pretty memorable, and it’s something I’ll never forget. I can’t really put into words how proud I am of him.” In classic humble nature, here is Henry’s explanation for winning: ”I think I got voted as King just because she got voted as queen…, otherwise I think someone else would have won.” Perhaps Horner was part of the reason, but the description of Henry’s personality and character by his peers/girlfriend, as well as being one of the best running backs seen in this area in years, might also have something to do with it.
When shifting the subject back to Nikki, he lit up a little more and said: “She means a ton to me. She is a great person who I have learned a lot from. And she keeps me grounded.”
Henry’s family approves as well: “Nikki is an awesome person. She is a very talented singer, such a very sweet person with a great sense of humor. She comes from a great family…all Washington State Cougars! I think she and Parker make a great couple…who knows; maybe they’ll end up in Pullman together! A very respected football talent evaluator in this area, whom you will meet later in this story, might just agree with that last part being a possibility.
Other Friends For Life
Henry has hung out, right up through high school, with basically the same group of boys, some who live in our immediate neighborhood, since his early days in CCYF, and most of whom are currently on the Skyview team. “He’s been very fortunate to have such a closely knit, quality group of friends. It’s our hope that Parker will retain these friendships for life, much like Rocky, Jim and I have,” Bill said.
IV. The Godfather
Henry has a special bond with his Godfather, Rocky Borders. Borders has been best friends with Bill since Bill and he were in 7th grade. He was also Bill’s Best Man when Bill and Vonna married 23 years ago. When Bill and Rocky were just 20 years old, they worked together at a pharmacy in North Hollywood, California. They would save up enough of their hard-earned money to spend a few months traveling around the country in a classic VW van, stopping for a month in New Orleans to take in Mardi Gras.
“As my best friend, Rocky and Parker had that bond together,” Bill said. In the limited communication I had with Rocky, I would have to say he comes across as one of the friendlier and more enthusiastic people you will know. ”Rocky is an awesome guy…really fun to be around, and he is always there for me and my family,” Henry said. ”He’s very encouraging, and supportive.”
What Rocky had to say about Henry pretty much blew me away like the rest did. ”First off, my Godson…in one word, is ‘class.’ To be as talented as Parker is, you might think it would go to his head. I can honestly say 180′ from this. This kid who is becoming a man…is one of the nicest, humblest individuals you could ever meet, sit down with and talk with.”
And more about his humble nature: “He would give you the shirt off of his back if you were cold. And brag? I don’t even think Parker knows how to spell that…because that word does not belong in Parker’s dictionary. You’d think a kid who rushed for 200 yards caused 2 fumbles and scored 3 touchdowns in a single game would want to sit down and revel over these accomplishments…but not Parker – he’d rather talk about college football, or who to draft in your fantasy football league. He has a strong and large-size head, but it is not from ego…but from working out in the gym!” You can give a lot of credit about that last part to Cory Gilday, but more on him soon. Rocky would go on to describe Henry in detail when it comes to his “dedication, diligence and devotion.” His enthusiasm is a breath of fresh air for us all.
V. Racing Across Mulholland Drive – Jim Carpenter
Late in preparation of this story, I was able to get into contact with Jim Carpenter. Jim is one of Bill’s closest friends. They have known each other for 48 years, and both share the same passion for racing. While Bill road raced motorcycles, Jim was racing sports cars. Both cut their teeth racing across Mulholland Drive on endless midnight runs. Jim has come up periodically to watch Henry play sports, from youth to high school. He is now a professional truck driver, and is making a special trip from southern California all the way up to the Skyview/Union game this Friday.
Jim had the following to say: “I love Parker as if he was my son. I have never met a young man with so much integrity who is so kind and considerate. He has a incredible sense of fair play. Let’s face it, we would all love to follow our passion. But to find your passion at such an early age, and to have the God-given talent to do it is one thing. He’s teachable and coachable, and that is rare. He’s a leader, and doesn’t even know it yet. He’s focused and committed. But more important, he’s a great person, and that is what is most important, and I love him. Wherever his path takes him in life, he will always be a winner.”
“However, we both know it wouldn’t happen without two great parents.”
“Jim is one of my favorite people on earth. He’s one of the nicest and funniest guys you will ever meet, and he is like a second dad to me,” Henry said.
VI. Creating the “Thunder” and “Lightning” of the Storm – Cory Gilday
There are a lot of opposing high school coaches and players out there that are wishing Henry had not met this man.
As a trainer, Cory Gilday (www.corygilday.com) has an Outstanding resume. He is one of the best there is in the region. Cory played college football and baseball, and had a short stint in single-A baseball. From there he served in the Marines as a reservist for six years. He holds a masters degree in Exercise Science, along with the CSCS and a myriad of other certifications. He is the only NIKE SPARQ trainer in Vancouver.
He also just happened to have trained Shaquille O’Neal, back in 2003. He currently trains about 50 athletes throughout the Vancouver and Portland school systems, include six athletes on the Skyview football team alone, including Henry, David Garlington, Austin Bayley, Cody Eldridge. Some notable Clark County athletes he has trained that are playing football include, Steve Forgette at Eastern Washington(last year was All Big Sky honorable mention at right guard), a Heritage alum; Slade Norris, an Oregon state alum, and currently playing with the Jacksonville Jaguars; and Shaun Bodiford, a PSU alum now playing with the Oakland Raiders.
On top of that, he is the Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Washougal football team, and just completed training of the 125th Special Tactics Squadron (United States Air Force special forces combat controllers). Needless to say, he has the credentials.
Gilday has trained Henry every summer since his freshman year. Even as a freshman, Henry made an impression. “Parker is one of those rare athletes that sports performance coaches like me live for. Parker came to me after his freshman year at Skyview weighing in at 165 pounds and running a 4.9 forty yard dash, fairly impressive for a freshman.” If the positive trait wasn’t clear before, here it is again: “What struck me first about Parker was his humble nature and his willingness to do anything to get better.”
“Here are two videos of Parker training. One is done one week earlier when he couldn’t get a 400 pound tire flipped. Then the next week is him getting it. These were taken after his freshman year, you can see how much weight he has put on since then….” –Cory Gilyard
Gilday is intense and serious about what he does and, not only does he push you to your limit, but sometimes seemingly beyond. ”Many times he crawled out my clinic, but was at each and every session ready to take on the challenges that I threw at him,” Gilyard said. “He has pushed me passed some limits I didn’t think I could get past. If you are really wanting to get faster and stronger I would really give Cory a call – he’s great,” Henry said. Sounds like a guy that enjoys a little pain and challenge.
During the workouts, Henry even got the attention of NFL players. ”Because of the lockout, I worked with a few NFL players as they waited for their labor dispute to be settled. At one workout, Shaun Bodiford (Oakland Raiders wide receiver) was awestruck at the intensity in which Parker attacked each drill, and remarked to me ‘That kid’s got it!’”
Vonna recalled another instance of his rare intensity: “His sophomore year he broke his collar bone during a game against Battle Ground, and there is no doubt he was devastated that he could not finish the season. He was so determined to come back bigger and stronger for his junior season. He lifted every day, ran stairs at Columbia River and hills at Gaiser throughout the summer. He also worked out with his trainer, Cory Gilday who physically tested him every session. I am very proud of his work ethic and drive.”
I asked Gilyard about Henry’s impressive improvement over the past offseason. Clearly, Henry looks bigger, faster and more explosive this year, and Gilday confirmed it. ”This summer was a time of great improvement. When Parker first walked in my doors he ran a 4.9 forty yard dash, and this past summer the fastest 40 he ran was 4.49! He averages in the 4.5 range. He weighed a respectable 165 pounds as a freshman, and as a senior got himself to a chiseled 205lbs.”
And how does he stack up? ”He is by far my most explosive high school athlete I have in my roster.”
Gilday has enjoyed his time with Henry so much that he acknowledges he isn’t looking forward to the end of the training. ”Watching Parker these past 3 years has been a confirmation of not only my programs, but what is possible with determination and the will of a young man. This last summer was a bittersweet for me as it might be the last full off season that I would have the opportunity to work with an athlete like Henry.”
“I now will be on the lookout for the next Parker, although I don’t think any athlete will have such a rewarding impact on my life as a performance coach.”
VII. Skyview Head Football Coach – Steve Kizer
Henry has been fortunate to be taught by elite coaches at each level. Steve Kizer is no exception, leading the Storm to three straight league championships and a semifinals birth the last three years. Kizer knows that Henry played a role all three years. “In 30 years of coaching, Parker is the best leader I have ever seen. He doesn’t talk much, he just leads by example, outworking everybody in every aspect of his life. When he does decide to say something, everyone listens, coaches included,” Kizer said.
Asked about his work ethic, Kizer said “Parker’s work ethic is off the charts. You see it in everything he does, on the field, in the classroom, with his family and in the community. Our student-athletes respect him so much and follow his example as best they can.” Kizer has clearly set a good example in that respect: “Coach Kize is the best coach the team and I could ask for. He is probably the most dedicated person to football I have ever met. He works as hard as he can to make sure we have the best chance to win on Fridays that is possible.”
One thing people don’t often talk about is the impact Henry makes on the other side of the field. With his increased size, strength and speed, he can wreak havoc either rushing the passer or tracking down the running back. “Parker’s physicality makes him an ideal linebacker. He worked so hard in the off-season and put on some muscle that we thought that he could really help the team at linebacker. We also felt that college’s that wanted him to play defense would move him to safety or linebacker, so we wanted to give him the opportunity to play where his future might be.”
As for his college recruiters inquiring about Parker? “Here is what I know, and I tell this to every coach that comes in, Parker will be the first guy in his class to play wherever he goes. He will cause fights in the coaches meeting as the defensive back coach will want him as a safety, the running back coach will want him as a tail back or full back, the linebacker coach will want to be a backer, and the special teams coach will want him on absolutely every team. Bottom line, he will be awesome.”
3x Player of the Week
This week Parker became the first 3 time winner of the GSHLFootball.com Player of the Week Award. Parker became the 6th two-time winner of the award joining Dan Feeney (Mark Morris), Ellis Henderson (Skyview), Gabe Rego (Union), P.J. Jones (Mountain View), Zack Marsahll (Camas) and Zak Browning (Union), when he won the award in week 4. Parker was also the Player of the Week in week 2 of last year.
Week 8 2011
Week 4 2011
Week 2 2010
Stronger Than He Looks
It doesn’t hurt to have a coach that can still hold his own physically and show how it is done. This is something Henry found out early: “A good story about Coach Kize is something that happens to a lot of players at Skyview. My freshman year, me and my teammate Riley Bockmier just got a new bench max. We were pumped – it was like 185 or something. So we got up thinking we were really cool. We looked over and saw Kize repping 225 at least 15 times with no struggle. We thought ‘we need to get stronger.’”
VIII. The Talent Evaluator – Dirk Knudsen
Dirk Knudsen is one of the premier recruiting analysts and scouts in the region. He is the editor of both washingtonpreps.com and oregonpreps.com. He has created some impressive lists and analyses of virtually all of the college prospects in the northwest, for all college levels.
We asked him for his thoughts on Parker and here are some of his thoughts:
“To me guys, Parker Henry is the epitome of the High School Work Horse Running back. There are few, if any, better.
Looking at the top list of backs this year that we have followed, Henry, Lakes Levonte Littlejohn, and Chiawana’s Jordan Downing are the guys who have proven themselves. They have done this by living through the day to day grind and flat out getting it done.
Parker has proven himself on the field in terms of being among the Elite Backs in the Pacific Northwest production wise. That just proves he is capable of moving on to college and being a factor. He has also tested at the top levels too at camps and combines.
Parker is up against a lot of great talent trying to earn his way. But what I ask kids is this. “Do you think you are going to have a shot at the NFL?” 90% say “No” or “Probably Not.”
If that is their answer then they need to go to a smaller school and play. Parker Henry is capable of being a First Team All American at Linfield or SOU. He is among the elite backs in the Region and other then Steven Long (Lake Oswego), Keivarae Russell (Mariner-Seattle) and now Ryan Lewis (Eastlake) there are no Running backs with major offers. Those guys all have elite speed and or have done inhuman things to get there. Do I think Parker would succeed at WSU or Wyoming? Yes. He no matter how you slice it is a special player and one the GSHL will never forget.”
IX. Friday’s Game, and Thoughts from Union Head Coach Cale Piland
The showdown is right around the corner, and you can look for Part III, or game preview, early Friday morning. But I wanted to get Coach Piland’s thoughts about Henry: “Parker is a very talented back who has taken advantage of the excellent coaching he has received at Skyview. As is the case with all good backs, he gets better as the game goes on.”
Henry is not buying into the fact that Union is the underdog Friday and that few are picking them to win. I asked him what he thought of the team and Brandon Brody-Heim, a impact player on both sides of the ball like Henry, and he said the following: “What impresses me the most is their physicality, and how well coached and disciplined they are. They very rarely turn the ball over.”
“Brandon is a great athlete, and even though he got hurt early, he has been tearing it up lately. He’s a great player and flies around the field on both sides of the ball.”
These two men will meet on the field at all times – one at running back while the other is tracking at linebacker. Both players are as tough as it gets and have rare work ethics. Something has to give in what is expected to be temperatures in the low 40’s and a 70% chance of rain -perfect weather for two gladiators like this.
X. Parker Henry’s Idol and Ultimate Inspiration – His Mother
It goes without saying that Parker Henry has an extraordinary bond with his mother, Vonna. They share a birthday, and so much more. Vonna said, “We are both kind of quiet and independent; just doing what we feel is required to achieve success; maybe there is something to having the same birthday!”
But it goes beyond that. Henry’s mother suffers from multiple sclerosis. She struggles with it on a daily basis. “My mom is my idol, because of the daily struggles that she goes through having Multiple Sclerosis. She inspired me to work my hardest.
The Best Father You Could Have
Of course, Henry believes having a father like Bill around helps make the family morale and dynamic so strong. ”My dad is a person I aspire to be like when I get older. He is the hardest working person I know and has sacrificed some of his personal dreams to help out my family. He is also one of the funniest people I know – he is great. I couldn’t have asked for better parents.”
The next time you see Parker in “beast mode,” turning breaking tackles and turning an almost certain 2-yard loss into a 10-yard gain, now you know where he finds that edge – that extra energy that most ball players don’t have, that heritage from incredibly strong parents and support group.
You can contact Mike at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-921-3256.