Clemson University

Core strength powers Parker's rocket arm

CLEMSON - They always talk about his arm.

Dabo Swinney said Kyle Parker's arm is stronger than all but 10 in the NFL. ESPN analyst Jesse Palmer, a former pro quarterback, said the statement is not hyperbole.

Parker displayed his "arm" on national television at Georgia Tech.

His big throw, a 63-yard touchdown pass, hit C.J. Spiller in stride 30 yards downfield near the sideline. The ball, traveling on a shallow arc, could not have been placed better by a military guidance system.

But his arm didn't create the velocity. And the power doesn't come from size.

At six feet and listed at a suspect 200 pounds, Parker is a runt of a Division I quarterback.

Yet, his whip-like release creates more velocity than the 6-foot-4 prototypes he followed in Cullen Harper and Charlie Whitehurst.

So how is this possible?

Perhaps Cleveland Browns quarterback coach Carl Smith can explain it best. Smith, who coached Matt Leinart at Southern Cal following a three-year run as the Jacksonville Jaguars' offensive coordinator, coached Parker during his senior year at Bartram Trail in Jacksonville, Fla.

"Have you ever seen him hit the baseball?" Smith said. "Jack that ball out of the park? Seen him hit one of those big bombs? Well there you go.

"In that body, he has core strength. You talk about bat speed - he has bat speed in his body. ... He's been trained since he was a year old by his dad. He doesn't have any (mechanical) flaws so all the power he has in his body can come out."

Parker describes it as "natural" ability he can't quite explain. The motion was honed under his father, a former NFL player, and the power he generates comes from an unusually strong core, strengthened at an unorthodox training center.

Carl Parker, the father, began seeing natural athletic coordination as he coached Kyle's youth teams. He coached his son through high school as the offensive coordinator at Bartram Trail.

A 12th-round NFL draft pick, he labored for the lone quantifiable residue he left behind - a single catch for 45 yards as a Cincinnati Bengal in 1989.

While attempting to hang on in the World League with the Sacramento Surge in 1991, he witnessed the greatest training efforts he had ever seen - San Francisco 49ers stars Jerry Rice and Roger Craig climbing wind-blown northern California hills.

Rice and Craig were on the cutting edge of nutrition and training.

Carl remembered that.

If the greatest athletes in the world were looking for an edge, so would his son.

A decade later, he took 14-year-old Kyle to the HIT (High Intensity Training) Center in Jacksonville where he knew Jacksonville Jaguars trained.

HIT executive director Aaron Marston remembers meeting the then 5-foot-8, 145-pound Parker: "He did not look like future Division I athlete"

And this did not look like your typical gym.

The first thing he did was harness Parker into a treadmill set at 25 mph.

Let's see what we've got.

The drill tests the nervous system, seeing how fast the brain can signal the feet.

"You can see what their neurological potential is," Marston said. "At 14 he had similar (ability) as a senior in high school."

What Parker had was explosiveness.

To enhance it, strength training did not involve bench presses or crunches. Training was tailored to both Parker's baseball and football interests - an overlapping core muscle group.

Marston did things like fix a 45-pound weight bar to a universal joint and attach a handlebar. The idea was to keep Parker on his feet as he moved side to side, creating "torque through his trunk."

"(A pitcher) throwing in the 90s is not a product of having strong biceps," Marston said. '"hey are throwing in the 90s because they have efficient motion patterns and are very well adapted to generate power with their lower body and transfer it from the core through to their upper body.

"The arms, the wrist - that is just the end of the sling shot."

Carl believes Kyle holds more potential in baseball due to his size. Though Carl offered no indication of whether Parker would potentially leave Clemson via the June MLB draft next spring.

Too many variables, he says. But, he added, Kyle loves Clemson.

"Talking to Clemson baseball players, they are amazed with his strength," Carl said. "He can't bench press 350 pounds, yet he can drive the ball 500 feet. They didn't understand why. It's about core development, using his total body."

While his throwing ability is his greatest strength, it doubles as his greatest flaw, producing an overconfidence of sorts, best illustrated when he attempted to thread a ball between two defenders off his back foot against Boston College.

The pass was intercepted. It was the first game Swinney said Kyle looked like a freshman.

Parker is still learning, developing. He's thrown five touchdowns against four interceptions and is completing only 47 percent of his passes. But with his golden "arm" comes patience from coaches who see potential unlimited.

"Whenever you are looking at a quarterback, the first thing you look at it is if he can throw," Kyle said. "I don't think you can teach it. I've been blessed."

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