Okotokian picked in first round of CFL draft
Football: Parker selected third overall by Stampeders
Monday, May 09, 2011 03:08 pm
A former Foothills Composite Falcon won’t have to travel very far to begin his pro career.
Okotokian Anthony Parker was drafted third overall in the first round by the hometown Calgary Stampeders at the Canadian Football League collegiate draft on May 8.
The University of Calgary standout couldn’t have been happier to be selected by the other tenants at McMahon Stadium.
“I literally have to walk from one end of the stadium to the other to go to my new locker room,” Parker said.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Parker said he hadn’t heard much from the Calgary Stampeders and didn’t expect to be taken by his hometown team who had the sixth pick in the draft.
However, following a trade of their first and second round picks, the Stampeders moved up to the B.C Lions’ slot at three allowing Calgary to scoop up the Dino receiver.
“The fact that they believed enough in me to do what they did makes me very privileged,” he said of the trade. “I couldn’t have asked for a better situation at all.”
Stampeders’ Canadian scout Brendan Mahoney said he was pleased to bring a player with Parker’s explosiveness into the fold.
“He’s an incredible playmaker once he gets the ball in his hands,” he said. “We had pegged Anthony as a player that we wanted and any time you’re presented with the opportunity to move up and get the player that you want, you go ahead and you do it.”
Being selected by Calgary represented means Parker’s family will be coming full-circle.
Parker’s father, Anthony Sr., and uncle Andy Johannsen both wore Stampeder colours during their CFL careers.
Parker said his family was emotional when the selection was finally announced.
“They were really, really excited,” he said. “They were in the same boat as me in that there’s no better situation than me staying in Calgary (with) them getting an opportunity to watch me play as much as possible.”
Being in familiar surroundings with a strong support system will aid Parker in his development as a CFL player, Mahoney added.
“We got a player that we’re pretty sure that he’s going to feel pretty comfortable playing for the Calgary Stampeders,” he said.
The Dinos’ receiver now finds himself in elite company.
Parker will join a Stampeder core already occupied by perennial all-star receivers in Ken-Yon Rambo, Romby Bryant and Nik Lewis.
The opportunity to play and compete with those veterans was not lost on Parker, who expressed eager anticipation for the team’s June training camp.
“(Lewis and Rambo) have performed well in this league for a number of years. I’m going to cherish the ability to be able to learn from those guys,” Parker said.
Mahoney said Parker would enhance what is already an incredibly athletic group of pass catchers on the Stamps’ roster.
“He’s right there athletically with those guys with his speed and versatility. The offensive coaches will be very happy to have a player of Anthony’s quality,” he said.
The rookie will also be catching passes from 2010 CFL Most Outstanding Player Henry Burris, who spoke with Parker on Monday morning.
“I’ve caught a few passes from him before and he’s got a pretty good arm so there’s no worries about him getting the ball there,” Parker said. “It’s just a matter of making sure that I catch it and doing everything I can with it once I’ve got it in my hands.”
After meeting with receivers coach Pete Costanza, the Stampeders’ newest recruit admitted the work for the upcoming season is just beginning.
Parker received a playbook from the CFL club upon being drafted and will take time to learn the system as training camp approaches.
The fact the Dinos employ a similar scheme to the Stampeders means Parker already has a head start in learning offensive coordinator Dave Dickenson’s game plan.
“I can see how it fits into the system,” he said. “I understand it fairly well from what we did at the U of C.”
Having met with the offensive coaches, Parker said he also has a pretty good idea of what his role will be in 2011.
“They already have their vision for me, where they want me to play,” he said.
Whether that role will include kick returns is yet to be determined.
Although he excelled at doing so in college, the Stampeders already have a return specialist in Larry Taylor.
Whether he gets a chance to spell Taylor for a few plays a game is something to be decided later, Parker added.
“Any way I can get the ball, I’ll be happy.”
Parker quickly dispelled any notion the additional attention afforded him will be a distraction heading into his first CFL season.
In fact, he said the added attention from local fans and media would be a good thing as he prepares for his first professional season.
“As long as I’m doing my job and playing as well as I can, they’re going to be behind me the whole way and it makes it that much better,” he said.
After playing in the East-West Shrine game in Orlando, Florida, Parker generated interest from National Football League clubs.
However, the NFL lockout combined with the allure of being drafted by his hometown team has made Parker’s choice to pursue a CFL career the first and only option.
“The fact that I got drafted to Calgary really solidified that for me because this is home for me and it always would’ve been whether I went south or not,” he said. “I’m prepared to be here for some years to come, definitely.”
Parker, 21, played in two Vanier Cup finals with the Dinos and earned a second straight selection to the Canada West all-star team for his play in 2010.
Due to injury, the 6’2”, 215 lb Parker played in only five regular season games in 2010 finishing with 22 receptions for 367 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned five kickoffs for 120 total yards.