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Milestone moment in Preston Parker's return to NFL

Posted Sep 17, 2014

WR Preston Parker was named the Giants' No. 3 starter today by Coach Tom Coughlin

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - The Giants will enter their game Sunday against the Houston Texans with Victor Cruz, Rueben Randle and Preston Parker as their top three wide receivers. A year ago, Cruz and Randle manned those same positions. But Parker was in a far different place.

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“(I was) begging for money, that’s all,” Parker said today. “Trying to find a job.”

He found one with the Giants and will play a significant role when the team attempts to win for the first time this season when they host the 2-0 Texans. Already the team’s punt returner, Parker this week was elevated to No. 3 receiver when Jerrel Jernigan was placed on injured reserve with a sprained foot.

“It’s an opportunity,” Parker said. “You just have to go and attack it. That’s why I practice hard. Things happen like this in the NFL. When they do, you have to step up and do your best.”

>> WR PRESTON PARKER NAMED NO. 3 WR

Parker certainly doesn’t need a lesson about life in the league. In 2010, he made the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster as an undrafted free agent from that well-known football power, North Alabama. The next year, his career seemed to be ascending when he played in all 16 games and caught 40 passes, including three for touchdowns, plus returned 23 punts and 10 kickoffs.

But the following season, Parker did not have a reception while appearing in only two games before the Bucs waived him on Sept. 20. Parker hooked on with the New Orleans Saints in 2013, but was released at the end of training camp. No one picked him up, so he spent the year earning money by, among other things, constructing Tiki huts in Florida.

“I was building them, bare hands, cranes and all of that kind of stuff,” Parker said. “I liked it, though. It was all right.”

But he didn’t want to do it long-term. Parker yearned for another shot in the NFL, but had more immediate concerns.

“You’ve got to eat,” he said. “That’s why you have a family. I depended on family. My mom was there and my father was there and my kids pushed me. Two sons, so that’s what it was like.”

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Despite spending almost two full seasons out of the league, Parker believed he would work his way back in.

“I’ve got a good relationship with the Lord and God,” he said. “I knew I could play here. I knew it wasn’t over, that’s why I kept pushing.”

The Giants signed him to a reserve/future contract on Jan. 7. He worked throughout the offseason at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Parker never flinched when the Giants selected a wide receiver/punt returner, Odell Beckham Jr., on the first round of the draft.

In training camp, Parker seemed to catch every pass thrown his way. He got an opportunity to return punts when Beckham suffered a hamstring injury that still has him on the sidelines. Now Jernigan is out and Parker’s importance continues to grow.

“He’s been in the league,” coach Tom Coughlin said. “He’s very quick, you saw him the other day. I think if we’d have had a decent block in front of him, that might have been just nothing more than a punt return touchdown. He’s played before, he’s got a good attitude about it, he is a tough guy, and hopefully he’ll make a strong contribution.”

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Last week against Arizona, Parker returned two punts and caught a pass from Eli Manning that he turned into a 29-yard gain. It appeared momentarily that Parker might score, but he got tangled up with defensive back Jerraud Powers.

“I’ve got to do better,” parker said. “Just have to do better. I have to make something happen.”

He believes he can, in part because of the rapport he has developed with Manning.

“I love Eli, I love Eli,” Parker said. “I could see it in his eyes that he wants to win. That’s why I work hard for him. That’s what we all come out here to do on the offensive side.”

Parker could write one of the NFL’s great stories of the season if he posts decent numbers. Not many former Tiki hut builders come off the street after missing almost two full seasons to become regular contributors.

“That’s where the best talent is – on the street,” Parker said. “I think we all know that. There are people who played with me in little league and high school, people that I learned from and they didn’t even touch college. Some of them didn’t go to high school. I just feel like that’s where the best talent is – on the street.

“If they’re home, just find something that can make you money while you’re trying to get back and don’t stop until you know it’s over, until you really know that you can’t get on a team or you feel like you’re too old or whatever. Whatever it is when you feel like it’s time to stop, then you can stop. But if you know there’s a slight chance, a one percent chance, keep trying, keep pushing because somebody can call you and you’ll be on the field.”

It can happen. Just ask Preston Parker.