There are several life lessons Jordan Parker will take from his career as a football player at Decatur Heritage Christian Academy, and one of the most important is centered around something his late father told him years ago.
“He told me not to ever worry about being the superstar and just be as good as you can be,” he said, adding that everyone had a role on the team.
Parker, a 17-year-old senior who was a starter in the offensive line, played his last football game for the Eagles when Decatur Heritage lost to Mars Hill last week in the third round of the state playoffs.
The defeat, however, will not be what he remembers most about his playing days. Every time Parker gathered with his coaches and teammates, he said he was reminded of the power of athletics, team and another lesson his father taught him about putting others first.
After his father died of cancer in 2016, Parker said his teammates and coaches dropped everything “and put me first during one of the most difficult times of my life. I’ll never forget this.”
Parker’s father — Curtis Parker — was a fixture at youth league fields in Decatur. After three surgeries and a 54-week battle with cancer, Curtis died at Decatur Morgan Hospital on April 15, 2016. He was 47.
Decatur Heritage head coach Steve Meek said there’s no magic formula for how to handle a player that losses a parent. He coached Jordan and his brother Jackson, who is now a student at the University of Alabama.
“The most important thing during a time like this is to have people around that you love and love you,” Meek said. “People in this business that don’t care about their players don’t last.”
He said what happens on the field is only a small part of a student-athlete's life.
Jeremy Jones, chief learning leader for Decatur Heritage, has been part of the Parker’s family journey since Curtis passed away.
He hired his widow, Kim Parker, as his assistant.
Jones described Jordan as a “young man with a caring heart who loves the Lord and contributes” to the success at Decatur Heritage.
“He is the young man who will make an impact in this world,” he said.
Jordan’s mother said his teammates and coaches stepped up for Jordan during one of the toughest times in his life. She said they were there for the entire family and that’s the impact athletics can have.
“When we were in the hospital, 50 or so kids from school were there,” Kim said. “They stepped up for Jack and Jordan, and as a parent, that’s something you’ll never forget.”
Jordan said he doesn’t remember a time during his father’s illness or since his death that he didn’t feel love and support from his teammates and coaches.
He said everyone “filled in the big void in my life.”
Decatur Heritage made the playoffs every year Jordan was on the team, but that’s not the most important thing that happened during his career.
“My family grew and I was able to use a lot of the things my father taught me,” he said. “I played my best and we had some success, but they stepped in as best they could during a difficult time. I’ll remember this the rest of my life.”