Shrine Bowl Interview: Houston’s Derek Parish Has Sights Set On Being Next Two-Way Player

With the emergence of Patrick Ricard with the Baltimore Ravens as an impactful two-way player, teams across the NFL continue to search of that versatile, two-way piece that can become a much more valuable roster spot overall.

Though that type of player hasn’t quite entered the league in recent seasons, Houston standout Derek Parish (6007, 245), a fullback and defensive end who was a team captain for the Cougars in 2022, looks like the next Ricard-type to enter the NFL.

While he’s nowhere close to Ricard’s size of (6’3″, 311), Parish is competing in Las Vegas at the 98th East-West Shrine Bowl as a fullback, tight end and defensive end and is turning heads with his overall versatility and competitiveness, aiming to do whatever it takes to make an impact at the next level.

In four seasons at Houston, Parish recorded 146 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss, 16.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and set the American Athletic Conference record for sacks in a game (4.5) and tackles for loss (6.5) in a game against Texas Tech in 2022.

Speaking with Steelers Depot from inside the players’ lounge in the Velvet Room at the Luxor Hotel & Casino during the East-West Shrine Bowl week, Parish stated that he’s just thankful to be able to play football, especially when it’s coming full circle in his life playing a game he loves while being one step from his ultimate goal.

“In a sense, it’s kind of full circle, because my first position in little league was fullback and d-line,” Parish told Steelers Depot. “So, I mean, it’s kind of surreal, honestly. It feels like I’m a little kid again, but obviously with more at stake. I’m just enjoying it 100%.”

In a competitive, fast-paced environment, it can be a bit overwhelming for a college athlete coming from one program into a new system, trying to learn a new scheme while going through intense interviews with scouting staffs and media members. Parish has had to learn the offensive and defensive side of the ball this week, but is embracing it entirely, enjoying the opportunity to do what he loves.

Originally recruited to Houston as a linebacker under former head coach Major Applewhite, Parish eventually shifted to defensive end, and then transitioned to fullback under current head coach Dana Holgerson, becoming that well-rounded, versatile impact player for the Cougars. Though a torn bicep ended his 2022 season prematurely, Parish was able to handle roles on both sides of the football and aims to do the same entering the NFL.

Throughout the week here in Las Vegas, Parish has shown his skillset as a fullback, tight end and defensive end, displaying the ability to get open with strong route running from the tight end position, sound blocking at fullback, and some intriguing speed off the edge as a defensive end.

Looking at the NFL landscape, Parish says he models his game after not only Ricard in Baltimore, but Kyle Juszczyk in San Francisco, aiming to be that versatile player.

“He’s versatile as heck, and I think I can be just that, along with like you said, Patrick Ricard. He can play both sides. He’s doing both sides. It’s inspirational regardless of the size, because I feel like I can be a third down rusher as well as beat a fullback and run a flat route and get a first down, and I can play on special teams, too.”

Special teams will be where Parish makes an impact right away in the NFL once he gets a shot.

In practices here at the Shrine Bowl, Parish has often been the first player in line for special teams drills, embracing the chance to showcase his talents to the scouts and coaches in attendance, displaying that willingness to embrace the special teams aspect of the game.

“I think a lot of your worth at getting to the next level is special teams, and I’ve embraced that. I was a big core four guy in college,” Parish said. “And I believe I can help a team win doing it in the league. I scream down on kickoff with my hair on fire, smile on my face. I love it. I love this game.”

The passion for the game and the willingness to do whatever it takes to earn a shot at the next level has been very present overall with Parish throughout the week. He’s entering the NFL at the right time with teams searching for that versatile, multi-position piece, like a Ricard. He might not be as big or as strong as Ricard, but he’s that piece that teams can move around and get quite a bit of return on as a bottom-of-the-roster depth piece.

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