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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.

Of course, how Parrick ended up in Huntsville is another road less traveled. On Dec. 12, via Twitter, Parrick posted: “Starving at the JUCO for a D-I offer.” Parrick had offers from three D-II schools — Southwestern Oklahoma State, Concordia State and West Texas A&M, but not a single Division I.

The next day, Keith Wagner, the offensive line coach at Alabama A&M, tweeted at Parrick. The two had been in Twitter contact but that was the extent of it.

“What’s going on with you?” Wagner tweeted.

“Studying for finals,” Parrick responded.

A few tweets led to this from Wagner: “Ain’t no doubt we are interested in you. But we can’t fly you out because of the budget.” More tweets were exchanged but no commitment. Finally, Bret encouraged Peter to type, “Does that mean you are offering me a scholarship?” At A&M that’s not an idle offer. Room and board, along with out-of-state tuition, is $36,000 a year.

On Dec. 16, four days after Parrick almost lost hope, he and the school agreed. He and his family are scheduled to fly to Alabama Friday. The Parricks will have in hand a signed letter of intent. Crazy? Oh yeah. Considering how he even got to this point is crazier still.

“I’m still not over it,” Parrick said. “I’ll never be over with it.”

In February 2015, four days after Menlo College offered and Parrick accepted a scholarship, the college dropped football. His mother, Rocky, threw away all the Menlo accumulation except for a stuffed owl (the Menlo mascot). Rocky gave the stuffed animal to Stella, the family’s yellow Labrador.

“Stella tore it apart in a week,” Peter said.

The young man, however, received no satisfaction from Stella’s chew toy. He was devastated. “Thought I was unlucky,” he said. “Oh, poor me.”

Recruiting time had passed. Parrick was out of options. Then along came Lenny Wagner and his SRJC Bear Cubs.

“If I listen to him and his coaches,” Parrick said, “Lenny said I will play after SRJC. I will become a bad-ass player. What Lenny has done for me, he’s a father figure to me.”

Parrick is not alone with that sentiment. In 2013, 15 of 20 SRJC’s graduating sophomores continued to play football at a four-year school (a total of 19 transferred). In 2014 the number was 26 of 27 (all 27 transferred). In 2015 it was 17 of 25 sophomores moving on to football (20 transferred).

“All I ask of the players is attitude and effort,” said Lenny Wagner. “If you’re a good player you’ll go on to a four-year school. If a setback happened to you, it’s history. Part of college is struggle. Part of life is struggle. Move on.”

Parrick knows about that struggle part. Life was very unfair to him two years ago. His experience with Menlo College, it might as well be tattooed on his forehead.

“It’ll be that little extra thing that drives me,” Parrick said.

It’s a twist on the adage “once bitten, twice shy.” Parrick was bitten once and he’s not shy. “About to show how the Cali boys play” he tweeted Dec. 20. He’s a Cali boy. That’s how Parrick refers to himself. A Cali boy. Color? The only color Parrick cares about is the color of the uniform across the line of scrimmage from him. Yes, Parrick always will have an attitude about that color.

To contact Bob Padecky email him at bobpadecky@gmail.com.

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