What kind of a coach would Payson High School had if administrators and the search committee had chosen Jesse Parker?
In his career in Arizona, Parker has 309 victories, which ties him with Tucson Amphi’s Vern Friedli for most in Arizona prep football history.
Parker was 48-27-2 with one state title from 1969 to 75 at Phoenix Camelback. At Mesa Mountain View from 1976 to 94, he was 185-34-2 and won a whopping four state championships.
After a brief stint in Texas High in Texarkana he returned to coach for 10 years at Gilbert where he was 65-48 and took the Tigers two seasons deep into the state finals.
During his career he also coached hundreds of players to postseason honors, college scholarships and even the pros.
Parker is also one of the most highly respected coaches in Arizona by both his former players and fellow coaches.
Over the years, I’ve met many of his ex-players and they wear the “I played high school football for Jesse Parker” label like a huge badge of honor.
A common thread that runs through what all of Parker’s former players say about their ex-coach is, “he made a difference in my life. He taught us perseverance, mental toughness and other life lessons.”
His former players also say that the only ones who can really understand what he stands for are those who played for him.
Over the years he built a rich reputation of being able to bring out more in his players than they knew possible — especially those undersized and less talented.
I recall years ago one of his former players telling me, “We learned what it takes to be champions in life.”
At about any football coaching clinic around the West, the name Jesse Parker invokes tremendous respect and admiration, even from those who have coached against him.
Coaches say that when they were matched against Parker, the intensity is turned up more than a few notches because they know they are in for a dogfight against a team that will be well-coached, well-prepared and highly motivated.
In coaching circles, Parker and former Mountain Pointe coach Karl Kiefer are in a league of their own.
Simply put, both are legends.
Parker says his taskmaster ways are the product of his parents who instilled toughness and discipline in him. He says, his rough and tumble five brothers also played a role in developing his work ethic.
Parker wanted the PHS head coaching job and would have snapped it up if it were offered.
Mingus coach Bob Young, who once played for Parker, is said to have been rooting for Parker to get the job because he wanted to coach against his former mentor.
Payson High plays Mingus next season.
Although Parker has always coached in the 5A ranks, he said coaching in the 3A East, a region that is widely considered to be the most competitive in the state, intrigued him.
School officials say they couldn’t offer him the job due to budgetary restraints.
Parker did not want to teach, he has retired from the classroom, but needed more than a $2,400 coaching salary to move to Payson.
With the Payson job no longer an option, Parker will work as defensive coordinator for Jim Jones at Red Mountain High School.
Parker was out of the state visiting his brothers when he learned he’d been passed over for the PHS job.
He admitted his disappointment, but in his ever-gracious ways promised to keep one eye on the Longhorns next season.