By Cameron Buford, Whatsgoodinsports.com
At first glance, one may say Los Angeles Chargers Tight End Donald Parham Jr’s 6’ 8” 240-pound frame is more suited for boxing out a defender in the low post rather than muscling out defenders for a position in an NFL endzone. Where many would expect a man of his size to be looking to make the game-winning shot on the basketball, Parham Jr. has become an effective go-to threat in the all-important red zone.
In Parham Jr’s first game in the NFL, he would show his versatility and potential all in one play, the play that would earn him his first catch in the league. Lined up outside against a shorter cornerback, Parham Jr. ran a fly route down the left sideline and a perfectly placed back-shoulder fade pass from fellow rookie Justin Herbert allowed Parham to catch the ball and fall into the endzone for a 19-yard touchdown against the eventual champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Parham Jr’s official last attempted catch in the league came against division rival Kansas City Chiefs in their week 15 matchup last season. After diving to catch a ball in the end zone, Parham Jr. landed on his elbow and then rolled onto his back, simultaneously causing his head to hit the ground and go unconscious.
In a disturbing scene, Parham Jr. laid, frighteningly, motionless, in the endzone, for several moments with his hands frozen in the same position they were when he attempted to catch the ball. Then Parham Jr. was rushed to Harbor–UCLA Medical Center for further evaluation before being pronounced to be in stable condition. He underwent multiple tests for a head injury and his season was effectively over as he was placed on injured reserve days later.
“I’ve watched it. I’ve come to terms with that it happened,”Parham Jr. said, admitting to watching the tape multiple times, then opened up about his conversation with his family about this incident. “Once mid-March came around, I wanted to do this I; I wanted to do it right and make sure that I’m taking the right steps.”
“I’m great. I’m 100%. I’ve come in and given great effort every day, so I feel confident in this year coming up,” Parham Jr. said about his health and returning to the practice field. “It’s great. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime. I’m just taking advantage of every moment that I have back. After everything that happened, it feels good to be back, for sure.”
Chargers head coach Brandon Staley made it clear when he took over the role that he wanted to “win the line of scrimmage.” Understanding that his slender frame could be a detriment to his blocking effectiveness, Parham Jr. mentioned that he wanted to improve his lower-body strength to become a better run blocker this off-season.
“My conditioning. Also, lower-body strength, overall. That was something that I felt that I lacked last year,”a reflective Parham Jr. said of his off-season goals when speaking to the media during Phase III of the Chargers Organized Team Activities. “Pass-blocking, run-blocking, all of it. I want to be an overall tight end, not just a pass-catcher,” Parham Jr. exclaimed.
“I love the game,” Parham Jr said when asked why he decided to come back. “This team makes me feel a part of a family, and that’s where I wanted to be.”
Donald Parham Jr.’s agility for his size has been impressive at the tight end position. Though he can become a better run blocker, I believe this will come as he gets older and naturally bigger and stronger. Look for that agility, which he has shown, to become more beneficial as he learns to maximize the route tree and build even better chemistry with the reigning AFC Pro-Bowl starting quarterback, Justin Herbert.
Let your voice be heard by sharing your thoughts on Donald Parham’s career potential. Can he become more than a red-zone threat, or do you think he can become an integral part of their every-down offense? Let us know your thoughts by reaching out to me on Twitter @_voiceofthefans, or email me at email@example.com. I also encourage you to forward any suggestions on what angles or topics you would like to see discussed on these Los Angeles Chargers in the coming weeks.