Golden Nuggets: "Cal is Blessed to Have Him on Their Staff"

(For open threads for March Madness and women's NIT, click here or scroll down.)

Kevin "Rope Coach" Parker constantly reminds himself and his players of the consequences of poor life choices.  His involvement with the SQUIRES program has earned him heaps of praise from his fellow coaches and his players.

Parker played running back at Oregon when Tedford was the offensive coordinator there in 1998. Parker had a short stint in the Arena Football League before Tedford brought him to Berkeley when he became the head coach in 2002.

A few years later, Parker was introduced to S.Q.U.I.R.E.S, a program at San Quentin State Prison where hard-core inmates meet with troubled youths to show them how they might end up if they make the wrong decisions in life. Parker, who saw lots of crime growing up and had always dreamed of going into law enforcement, was awed by the experience.

He came up with the idea of getting Cal's players involved in the program, if nothing else to teach them not to take anything for granted.

"The first thing I thought was we have to get some of our guys over here," Parker said. "I thought our players needed to see it because we're only one bad choice and one bad decision away from coming here. That's true for anybody. I think anybody and everybody should go visit a prison, just to keep you on the straight and narrow. You don't want to be there."

Parker said he brings a group of Cal players to the program about three times a year — there will be another visit next month — but now finds himself going on his own as much as possible. Parker tries to go every Saturday, just to listen to the inmates' stories and keep him as grounded as possible.

"I get over there pretty often," Parker said. "My wife gets mad at me for going over there so much. When I'm feeling bad, I go over there and hear their stories just to keep me on the straight and narrow. It's big-time therapy. Sometimes, I just sit in the corner and listen."

In between his playing career and his arrival at Cal, Parker worked for the East Bay Conservation Corps, an Oakland-based organization that offers at-risk youths community-service jobs and help with tutoring. He also helps run Marshawn Lynch's Family First Foundation, an organization put together by the former Cal football star that provides assistance to the Oakland community.

Lynch, now a running back with the Buffalo Bills, says Parker made an impact on him from the day he set foot on Cal's campus.

"You see where he's come from, he's turned a little into a lot," Lynch said in a phone interview. "It's just a wonderful blessing. When you've seen everything he has been through, you can either have a negative attitude or take it and run with it. He's a role model to all young black men. He's not just a role model to Cal athletes. Cal is blessed to have him on their staff."

After the yump Cal releases the Spring 2010 media guide, Nick Daschel rates Pac-10 defensive tackles, Faraudo posts a comprehensive position-by-position preview of the 2010-11 basketball team, rugby routs UBC to capture another world cup, and more.

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