PETALUMA — It’s guaranteed. Someone might stick out his tongue, thinking himself terribly clever. Most will look like they were told to look straight ahead unless they want to eat a 10-pound tofu burger. Usually the only thing a football team picture reveals is the remarkable revelation 90 hyperactive athletes can sit still for 30 seconds.
The 2016 Alabama A&M team picture, however, invites a double take. The eye scans row after row, stopping only four times. Out of 89 players, only four of them are white. Next year Peter Parrick will make it five.
“I want to experience something else outside of the North Bay,” said Parrick, a Casa Grande and SRJC grad. “I want to see different things, meet new people.”
His wish has been granted. He’s never been to the A&M campus, a historically black college in Huntsville, Alabama. Heck, Parrick has never been to Alabama or even the South. The farthest east he’s been is Boise, Idaho. A&M offered a scholarship and Parrick accepted. The entire transaction was non-verbal, all of it occurring on his Twitter feed. The first time Parrick spoke to an A&M coach was after his acceptance.
“It’s a leap of faith,” said Parrick’s father, Bret. “Our family can’t do anything normal.”
What’s normal about this: Parrick, 19, wants to interview serial killers for a living. He was going to get his degree in sports management until he took a criminal psychology course at SRJC. It rang his bell. Now he wants his degree in criminal justice.
A different path by itself, he’s going to a historically black university to get his degree, an institution which began in 1869 through the efforts of an ex-slave, William H. Council. In the fall of 2013 only 113 white kids were among the 4,055 undergraduates at A&M. So what, Parrick thinks. He’s interested in humanity, in all its colors.
“Color is not a thing with me,” said Parrick, a 6-foot-3, 310-pound offensive lineman. “My parents taught me a person’s skin color doesn’t matter.”
Added Bret, “there are good and bad people of every shade.”
It never occurred to Parrick to judge someone by their shade. Peter and Bret have gone to two University of Washington games this fall to visit with one of his buddies from his Casa days, Huskies nose tackle Elijah Qualls, a black man. Qualls will be returning to Petaluma shortly to stay with the Parrick family.
“Elijah is like a brother to me,” Parrick said.
Befitting someone who wants to interview serial killers for a living, Parrick is not a wide-eyed neophyte looking through rose-colored glasses. Alabama is not Northern California, not having that much in common other than both are located on the North American continent.
“One of my teammates at the JC, (cornerback) Chris James, is from Alabama (Phenix City),” Parrick said, “and he says I’ll learn how to dance. No, I don’t know how to dance.”
A&M offers Parrick’s major and, significantly, NCAA Division I football in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Bulldogs played Auburn in 2015 and let’s not talk about the 55-0 defeat. A&M will play Vanderbilt next season. It’s D-I and it’s Southern college football and one has to look no farther than the state of Alabama itself to be aware of its importance — there are SIX schools in the state that play D-I football. And one of those D-I schools, A&M, produced John Stallworth, a Pro Football Hall of Fame wide receiver from the Pittsburgh Steelers.