KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Ron Parker can't remember exactly how many pro scouts showed up for his pro day. Might have been two. Might have been as many as five. All he knows is that it wasn't many.
It's hard to find Newberry College, after all.
Parker was trying to make a name for himself for however many people were there that day. Somehow he succeeded. And when the draft ended that year, the Seahawks offered him a tryout, and it was the start of a long and winding odyssey that has led him to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Waived and signed by three different teams, Parker is suddenly one of the linchpins of one of the NFL's best defenses. He's played safety and cornerback, both superbly, while often getting the assignment against an opponent's top receiver, including Buffalo's Sammy Watkins last week.
"You saw his athleticism, his ability to run," Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. "He's got an innate toughness about him that you always like. He's always been able to overcome."
Parker is second on the Chiefs (6-3) in tackles behind linebacker Josh Mauga heading into Sunday's game against Seattle. He's managed a sack, an interception and made one of the biggest plays of their season when he stripped Buffalo running Bryce Brown near the goal line.
Not only did it prevent Kansas City from allowing its first rushing touchdown of the season, it also kept the Chiefs within striking distance in a 17-13 victory last Sunday.
"He's done so many different things for us," Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. "We've asked him to play safety. We've asked him to play corner, nickel, we've had him everywhere and he just kind of handles it. He's pretty easy going that way."
Parker grew up in Beaufort, in the South Carolina Lowcountry. He was a standout prep player but wound up going to junior college in Kansas, where he generated a bit of interest from four-year schools. Ultimately, Parker headed back home, reuniting with a bunch of friends at Newberry, a Division II liberal arts college with barely more than 1,000 students.
Even then, nothing was given to him. Parker began his career fifth on the depth chart at safety, and spent most of his first season at Newberry playing on special teams.
"I always was a guy that had to take the hard route, so I'm kind of used to it," Parker told The Associated Press. "Every time I started out, I had to work my way up from the bottom of the barrel, just to be seen. When I first got to Newberry, I wasn't even seen on the field. I had to play special teams that year, and that caught my coaches' eyes a little bit."
Eventually, they realized they couldn't keep his blazing speed off the field. He led his team in tackles, led his conference in interceptions and played well enough that two — or three, or four, or maybe even five — pro scouts wanted to see him work out after his senior year.
Things didn't get any easier once the Seahawks gave him a shot.
He was waived by them, signed by Oakland, waived again, signed by the Seahawks once more. He was waived again, signed by Carolina, waived again, and then signed with Seattle.
Parker refused to give up. He knew that he had rarely been healthy, and that he was good enough to play in the NFL. So he stuck with it.
"It wasn't a doubt in my mind I could play with these guys," he said.
When he was finally waived by Seattle for the umpteenth time, Kansas City snatched him up. He appeared in six games on defense and all 16 on special teams last season, and was forced into a starting role this season after injuries took their toll on the defense.
After all he's been through, it's no surprise that Parker has run with the opportunity.
Notes: WR Donnie Avery (abdominal surgery) was back at practice Wednesday. ... TE Anthony Fasano (bruised knee) did not work out. ... FB Anthony Sherman was AFC special teams player of the week. ... TE Demetrius Harris had surgery Wednesday on a broken bone in his foot. He hurt the foot during warm-ups in Buffalo and has been placed on injured reserve.