The legendary coach, who last summer yearned to be the Payson High School’s next football coach, received the prestigious “You Paved the Way” award at the Arizona All-American banquet held Jan. 31 at Mesa Community College.
Jessie Parker, 70, received the award, said presenter Tot Workman, “because he was not only a great football coach, but a great teacher and a tremendous inspiration his entire career to all those he touched.”
Parker said he was “tremendously honored and humbled to receive the award” that goes annually to some to the top coaches, in all sports, from around the state.
Last spring when the Payson High School head football coaching position opened up due to the resignation of Josh Anderson, Parker applied for the job after being prodded by several people in Payson.
Although Parker was interviewed, he was never offered the job, nor did any negotiations take place.
Parker expressed his disappointment at not receiving serious consideration, but remained true to his character never second-guessing the slight.
Payson’s brush off of perhaps the most accomplished coach in Arizona, did however, leave many veteran coaches bewildered.
“I can’t believe Payson passed him over,” said a former small town Arizona coach now a member of the coaches’ hall of fame.
He then mused, “I would have liked to have seen him go head to head against Paul,” referring to Blue Ridge’s Paul Moro who is the dean of 3A conference coaches and one of the most successful in Arizona.
In addition to Parker receiving the “You Paved the Way” award, he was honored last fall at a luncheon in Mesa hosted by his former players and students who also founded “The Jesse Parker Legacy Award.”
According to those who founded the award, it will be presented annually “to a deserving coach or educator who in the model of Coach Parker teaches more than the classroom subject or coaches beyond the sport, inspiring students and athletes with life-long skills and a foundation of character to carry them into the future.”
Although Parker had a reputation as a genuine old-school, hard-nosed coach — which has its roots during his dirt-poor childhood on the plains of Oklahoma — he was also a memorable and accomplished teacher at Mesa Mountain View where he taught advanced placement courses for years.
At the Legacy Award ceremonies, Arizona Speaker of the House Kirk Adams, who played for Parker’s Mountain View Toros years ago, said, “Coach turned me into a man off the field. He was one of the most influential people I’ve ever been around.”
Although Parker is retired and only wishes to coach rather than teach, he said if Payson had offered him the football position he would have been willing to teach one or two AP classes per day and serve as a teacher mentor.
In his career in Arizona, Parker has 309 victories, which is second 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 1994, he was 185-34-2 and won 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.