Herd WR coach Parker heading to Purdue
HUNTINGTON -- Former Marshall wide receivers coach Gerad Parker had one of his life's most difficult decisions over the weekend.
It was attaching the word former to his ties with Marshall.
Parker, a former Lawrence County High School standout and University of Kentucky wide receiver, confirmed on Sunday evening that he was joining the staff at Purdue.
"There's no doubt that it's tough when you grow up and come from this area," Parker said. "(Marshall head coach) Doc (Holliday) gave me a chance to come back home and I've got a great group of receivers that I've had for the last two years. I would've passed it up if it wasn't the right situation because family is more than anything to me."
At Purdue, Parker will coach tight ends and serve as recruiting coordinator for the Boilermakers.
He said it represents a new adventure in the world of coaching for him as he continues to ascend through coaching circles.
"This is a chance to do something I've never done before," Parker said. "I like the challenge of coaching a new position and I've always stepped up to challenges. I have dreams and aspirations of being an offensive coordinator and a head coach one day, and this will help me toward those goals."
The announcement culminates a whirlwind two weeks for Parker, who was a vital part of a short-handed Marshall staff that still secured the nation's top non-BCS recruiting class despite having several coaches leave in the last month of recruiting.
Parker said he received a phone call asking him to interview with new head coach Darrell Hazell, who takes over with the Boilermakers after head coach Danny Hope was let go following the season.
After receiving the phone call on Thursday, Parker interviewed on Friday in West Lafayette, Ind., before returning back to the Tri-State.
On Saturday afternoon, Parker received a phone call back from Hazell offering him the job.
After consulting with his wife Kandi, Parker made the decision to accept the position and turned his attention to getting in touch with Marshall's coaching staff and his players.
"First and foremost, I take a lot of pride in coaching my guys and treating everyone like family," Parker said. " My two biggest concerns were my players and Doc and Coach (Bill) Legg. They've bent over backwards to help me here and I can't tell them how much I appreciate them. This is definitely a little bittersweet.
"As happy as I am for the opportunity, it hurts just as bad as leaving my home to call those guys and tell them. You build trust with them, have them in your home and they are your family.
"I don't have a son yet and those players, they're all my sons. You build a trust with them and I wanted to make sure they knew first. I didn't want them to hear it from anyone else first."
Parker's ascent up the coaching ladder has been swift over the past few seasons.
After his playing career with Kentucky ended in 2004, Parker earned his master's degree in education from the University of Kentucky in 2005.
He served as Raceland High Schools' wide receivers and defensive backs coach in 2005 and 2006 before accepting a graduate assistant spot at Kentucky in 2007 and 2008.
In March 2008, he was hired as running backs coach for UT-Martin before transitioning to wide receivers coach in 2009. In his final season at UT-Martin, he was passing game coordinator and recruiting coordinator before coming back to Marshall.
With his family and his wife Kandi's family both living in the Tri-State area, Parker said the decision was not one taken lightly.
His departure hit him on Saturday night when he and Kandi went to Raceland -- where his coaching career began -- to watch Kandi's brother, Kyle Brown, play basketball for West Carter.
Kyle Brown poured in a game-high 29 points to lead West Carter -- also Kandi's alma mater where she starred in basketball -- to a win over Raceland.
Merely hours after making a life-changing decision to go to Purdue, Parker walked up the gym stairs at the school where his coaching career started.
"It pretty much came full circle for me Saturday night," Parker said. "We went to watch Kandi's brother play and as I walked up those stairs I thought, 'It's amazing that I was just here six years ago.'"
Parker makes the seventh member of the Marshall football staff to leave this offseason.
Marshall defensive coordinator Chris Rippon resigned the day after the season ended, quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator Tony Petersen went to Louisiana Tech, offensive line coach Geep Wade went to Chattanooga, cornerbacks coach Lytrell Pollard went to Southern Miss, Anthony Midget was hired to replace Pollard then bolted for Penn State 10 days later and now Parker.
Also, strength and conditioning coordinator Joe Miday left for Western Kentucky in mid-January.