Like many exceptional athletes, in his youth, Tulsa Drillers left fielder Kyle Parker excelled at football and baseball. What becomes less common is being able to continue to do so at the major collegiate level. Even for Parker, college recruiters only saw him as a potential quarterback.
"They only saw me as a football player," said Parker. "I wanted to play football and baseball. That's why I went to Clemson to do both."
It's understandable why Dabo Swinney's coaching staff would be so flexible for Parker. For one, Parker was rated the fourth best high school quarterback in the country in 2008 according to ESPN's Recruiting Nation. Some of the players rated behind Parker in that class:
Three future NFL first round draft picks - Blaine Gabbert, 10th overall to Jacksonville in 2011.
Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck went first and second respectively in 2012. That also includes three of the top quarterback prospects for this year's NFL draft with Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arkansas' Tyler Wilson.
Parker also suspected the football coaches didn't think he would last that long with Clemson baseball; mainly because the Tigers are a perennial top 25 program and a regular in the College World Series.
"I graduated high school early so I enrolled in January and then showed up for the baseball team," Parker said. "I think a lot of the football coaches thought I'd go out there, throw the ball around, hang out, and then come over to spring football. But I became a starter after about four games and was in the lineup through the whole season so I had to stick with baseball."
Parker played that full season of baseball in 2008 and ultimately redshirted for football that fall. However, he did earn the starting quarterback job the following year and put up some respectable numbers. And his consistent success continued in baseball as well in 2009 and 2010.
Parker's 2010 season went so well, the Colorado Rockies drafted him 26th overall that summer. And Parker signed. But to their dismay, he decided to come back to school for the fall semester just to play football.
"You know, I had a really good [redshirt] freshman year, and if I came back and had another one, I could possibly go high in the NFL Draft," explained Parker. He didn't have nearly as good of a year.
It may have had something to do with breaking multiple ribs in their third game of the season -- a 27-24 overtime road loss to eventual BCS national champ Auburn. Parker played through the whole season regardless.
And if there was anything positive to take away from that experience, it gave Parker peace of mind in terms of his career choice.
"After that [season] I kind of evaluated my future in football. It just looked like a better opportunity [in baseball]," said Parker. "I mean I'm glad I went back and did it. I'm glad I can come out here every day and have a clear mind [knowing] this is what I really want to do."
Now in his third season of professional baseball, Kyle Parker says he's happy with his overall performance thus far. He's been an all-star selection in every league he's participated. And at this rate, his first year in Class AA Tulsa will end just the same.