Padecky: For Casa Grande High grad being a white player at historically black university a lesson in acceptance
PETALUMA - Apologies to Robert Frost, this was the road less traveled. At least less traveled by white athletes.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” said Peter Parrick, a white athlete from Casa Grande High School and SRJC. In January 2017, Parrick was a bit uneasy, which is a bit unusual for someone who is 6-foot-3, 320 pounds.
What was this going to be like? Yes, Parrick had to ask himself that question. He was going to play football for Alabama A&M University in Normal, Alabama. More specifically, Parrick was going to a Historically Black College or University (HBCU) to play football in the Deep South.
“Imagine putting downtown Richmond into downtown Petaluma,” Parrick said. An East Bay city, Richmond is 39.6 percent white. Petaluma is 78.08 percent white.
Alabama A&M’s football team? The Bulldogs had 91 players on their 2018 roster. Six of them, including Parrick, were white. At the university 91.3 percentage of the students were African-American, just 2.5 percent white.
Was Parrick intimidated? Nope. His parents, Rocky and Bret, had taught their son to be color-blind. People are people. Pain and joy, tears and laughter, experiences common to all. This, however, was different. Such core beliefs are more abstract here than experienced, as Petaluma is not a hot-bed of diversity.
“I love Petaluma,” said Parrick, 22. “It’s a perfect place for a kid to grow up. Petaluma is comfortable, a comfy little town conveniently located to everything you’d ever want. But I was in a shell. Petaluma was my shell.”
It took just two days in Normal for Parrick to feel normal, his unease had floated away as if it was some fine mist caught in a soft breeze, leaving him now to work hard to remember it was there at all. He assimilated without effort, either from him or from others. Sure, he already had a place to squat. He was on a football team, on scholarship, in a fraternity of sorts, built on immediacy and of need.
Parrick had to prove he belonged there, that he was willing to share the sweat, that he wasn’t some spoiled white kid from California. The Log Rolls did just that. Spoiled kids don’t do Log Rolls.
“Each week a coach gives you a test on the next opponent,” said Parrick, who started at center his second season at A&M. “If you miss a question you do a Log Roll.”
A player laid flat on the goal line and then rolled over and kept rolling over until he reached the other goal line. Did Parrick ever miss a question?
“Every week,” he said. “Sometimes more than one to be honest. Whatever you had for lunch …”
If a player’s grade point average dropped below 2.5, a player would have to do SIX Log Rolls. AFTER practice by the way. Yes, a lot of players left practice hungry. That’s how players bond. Suffering is a remarkable unifying agent.
So what if Parrick was on a Division I football scholarship? Log Rolls don’t discriminate. Neither do players.
If you can play, if you can handle the suffering, if you don’t act spoiled or like a jerk, skin color doesn’t matter. You’re one of us.