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Change in plans: Some ex-Cats adjust while chasing their NFL dreams

C.J. Parish

C.J. Parish, here tackling Stanford running back Tyler Gaffney, would like more chances to be on the other side of these kind of collisions. Photo by Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE

There was a player down on the field, injured, late in the first half at the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game at Kino Stadium.

Someone mentioned that it was former Arizona Wildcats defensive end C.J. Parish. How could that be? His team was on offense. He was supposed to be on the sideline.

But it was Parish. When scouts asked him during practice last week to show them what he’s got at fullback, he gave them a nod and a smile and said, “Yes, sir.”

“Everybody has a dream to go to the next level,” Parish said after the Monday night’s game.

“So you do whatever you can to put yourself in that position. The scouts wanted to see me at fullback and we didn’t have one. I caught on fast. The plays came to me naturally. It was good.”

Parish played fullback at Arizona for three games in 2010 before suffering a season-ending concussion. The coaches moved him back to defense last year because of the Cats’ need at defensive end. He arrived from junior college as a linebacker.

“(Scouts) just want to see me catch more passes and do more stuff out of the backfield, but they definitely like me at fullback,” he said.

Parish, after a taking a hit on his left leg late in the first half Monday, ended up being fine, playing in the second half. He wasn’t the only ex-Cat trying out a new position.

Defensive end Mohammed Usman tried linebacker Monday night. Robert Golden, who played all over the secondary at Arizona, stuck solely at cornerback Monday night — which is his position of preference anyway.

He started at safety in 2009 and 2011, and at corner in 2010.

“Cornerback has always been my position,” Golden said.

“I always had to rotate at safety, and played a little nickel at Arizona, so I couldn’t really stick to one position. But when I came out here, I had fun with it and just got the job done.”

Golden had the game’s only interception, picking off a halfback pass from Penn State’s Stephfon Green.

“I kind of sensed something fishy,” Golden said of the trick play. “The guy threw the ball short and I was able to undercut it and make a play.”

Golden said he interviewed this week with about 20 to 25 NFL teams, adding, “I know the Miami Dolphins showed a lot of interest in me.” He said he’s headed to Dallas to train at the Michael Johnson Performance Center; Golden said ex-UA receiver Juron Criner is also training there.

Golden likely is the best prospect among the seven former Wildcats in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game. Truth is, almost all of the players in the game are facing long odds … but, on the other hand, the NFL is littered with productive late-round picks and undrafted free agents, so you never know.

Other ex-Arizona players in the Casino Del Sol All-Star Game were linebacker Paul Vassallo, linebacker Derek Earls, fullback David Hill and receiver Gino Crump.

Crump had six catches for 45 yards, including a nine-yard catch on fourth-and-5 on his team’s game-winning drive. The Stripes team beat the Stars 24-21 on a touchdown pass with 22 seconds left.

Crump said he takes whatever scouts say to him “with a grain of salt,” but added: “Right now, I’m feeling really optimistic about my future in the NFL.”

Usman made two tackles, including one on a kickoff. Vassallo had one stop. Earls was not credited with a tackle.

“We rotated three groups,” Vassallo said of the linebackers. “As a player, you would like more reps, but it’s not easy with nine linebackers in an all-star game.”

Related: Late touchdown gives Stripes the win

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