Arizona Wildcats senior C.J. Parish figured his career was over. He suffered a concussion last year against Iowa in the third game of the season. Symptoms lingered.
It wasn’t as if he was playing a lot anyway as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end/fullback.
“I was like, ‘This is all over,’” he said.
The bad news was the head injury kept him out of action for the rest of the season.
The good news is that the head injury kept him out of action for the rest of the season.
Because of that, Parish, who had never redshirted, qualified for a medical hardship. The NCAA approved the application, and Parish regained his season of eligibility.
Now, he is one of the big stories of Arizona’s spring ball.
The guy who seemingly had nowhere to play on last season’s team is penciled in as a starting defensive end after the loss of Brooks Reed, Ricky Elmore and D’Aundre Reed.
That’s all great for Parish and the Wildcats.
“Oh, I’m definitely happy,” said Parish, who transferred to Arizona from Blinn College in Brenham, Texas.
“Defensive end is my position. I played it in high school, I played it in junior college. I’ve played a lot of positions, but d-end is something I really favor. I like it a lot.”
There is something else he would like.
“Brooks’ spin move. I really want that,” Parish said with a smile.
“I’ve talked to him about that several times. He has tried to help me with that. That spin move he has is vicious. I tell him, ‘I want to get better, can you help me with that?’ He’s always willing to help me.’”
Parish (6-2, 245 pounds) still has a lot to learn about footwork and reading the placement of the offensive tackle and understanding momentum — some of the tricks of the trade with the spin move — but he does have some raw skills that should help Arizona replace its lost pass rush.
He was a sprinter at A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, Texas.
“We knew he had some speed,” said defensive ends coach Jeff Hammerschmidt.
“I tell you, he’s been a nice surprise. He’s a tough guy. A leader. I think he is going to be good for us. He’ll definitely help us against the passing game.”
Parish is part of an inexperienced group of ends that includes Mohammed Usman, redshirt freshman Dan Pettinato and senior Dominique Austin (who is trying to make the move from tackle). Usman played in only the final three games last season because of an academic suspension after transferring from junior college.
Help could arrive in the fall with junior college transfer Lamar De Rego and freshman Dame Ndiaye.
“Yeah, a lot of people are going to say, ‘You need experience, you need this, you need that,’” Parish said.
“But if you have a group that is willing to work, that is willing to put in the time, the blood, the sweat, the tears … then you can do anything. I don’t ever think anything about us being young. I just feel we’re all go-getters.”