Running back steps up, quietly leads the Bulldogs

Troy Parker is a quiet guy. The senior doesn't like to yell at his teammates when they miss an assignment or even to congratulate them after a job well done.

"I don't really like to talk much," he admitted.

But Parker, the starting running back on Jay M. Robinson's football squad, doesn't need to be vocal to lead the young Bulldogs.

"He's a silent leader," said Robinson coach Bobby Cloninger. "He gives you his best effort every night. He doesn't complain and moan; he's a hard-worker and that shows on the field."

Parker has led Robinson (2-2) on its ground attack, averaging 110 yards per game coming into Friday's game against Carson. His biggest game came two weeks ago when the Bulldogs defeated South Rowan 50-32.

The 5-foot-7, 190 pounder rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns, including one from 48 yards out, on 31 attempts against the Raiders.

"He's a slasher," said Cloninger. "He's going to pound you and run over you."

Parker wants to keep up the good work the rest of the season so his team can stay competitive in the South Piedmont Conference.

"I still have to push it even farther," he said. "I'd like to get at least 100 (yards) every game."

Coming into this year, Parker had big shoes to fill after former teammate Tony Francis, an all-conference running back, graduated along with many other key players.

"I didn't feel pressure, but I knew I had to become one of the leaders of this team," said Parker.

Parker said that in addition to leading by example, he's found that using humor - even if it's sometimes out of his comfort zone - can help his teammates out.

"I have to make them laugh," said the 18-year-old. "During games they get too serious, so I make them laugh so they'll calm down and be able to focus."

Parker saw a lot of action last year, alternating playing time with Francis on most downs. Parker was also the fullback for part of the season after an injury forced him into that role. Having played on Friday nights last year made his transition to a full-time running back easier.

"It helped me get some experience," said Parker, adding that it improved his blocking.

Cloninger agrees.

"It made him more physical," he said. "It's made him more comfortable in game-time situations."

Cloninger said Parker knows that there are some areas he still needs to work on.

"We're trying to get him to understand that you can run by opponents and score, you don't have to pound the ball every play," said Cloninger.

Parker has made up for that and his speed - something else Cloninger said he needs to improve - with the work he's put in the weight room and with his team-first mentality.

"He does anything that you ask him to do," said Cloninger. "He doesn't mind who gets the credit, but that doesn't mean he doesn't want the ball in his hands in crunch time."

Cloninger said that makes him trust his running back and that it also shows his maturity.

Parker has come a long way since he started playing football while attending J.N. Fries Middle. He said he got interested in the sport after watching former Carolina Panthers running back Stephen Davis dominate an opponent on TV.

"I saw him and I thought, 'Man, I could do that,'" said Parker, explaining that he enjoys playing his position because it allows him to be physical while still having a chance to put points on the board.

Parker's physicality should come in handy for the Bulldogs as they take on arguably the toughest slate of their conference schedule. Robinson travels to A.L. Brown Friday and then hosts Concord and Northwest Cabarrus during the next couple of weeks.

Friday, Parker will do as he always does: sit quietly listening to his music in the locker room, focusing on the game and keeping to himself while his fellow Bulldogs get pumped up for the big game.

"I've always been the quiet one, but when I'm on the field, I do big things."