Class of 2015
Ezekiel “Zek” Parker is best known for his football career, but the former Athens High product would have easily succeeded in any sport he tried.
From an early age, it was obvious Parker was a different kind of athlete, able to succeed in whatever he tried. Zek’s father, Kirk Parker, remembers his son showing promise soon after he was able to walk.
“I had him running since he was 3 years old,” said Kirk Parker. “Our soccer team, the Green Machine, went undefeated for about six years I remember. He could have played soccer, but he was dying to play football. I was trying to hold him out of football as long as I could.”
It was only a matter of time before Parker gave in and let Zek suit up for Athens, but not before he racked up awards running track and field. Zek was part of Parker’s Track Club, a track and field team formed by Kirk. Zek ran with the club from the age of 7 until he graduated high school, winning numerous gold medals at the Alabama Sports Festival. Zek even travelled to Spain in 1996 for the World Juniors, winning the 110-meter hurdles and finishing third in the 100 meter dash.
Zek excelled at Athens High School where he lettered in football, track, basketball and tennis. In addition to first-team All-State honors in football, Zeke competed at the state tennis and track meets his senior year. In fact, the multi-sport athlete had to take part in both the tennis and track championships on the same day due a scheduling conflict in 1997.
“We had him at the tennis meet and once he finished there, we took him to the state track meet,” said Parker. “He finished second or third in tennis and then went to track and won a bunch of events.”
After competing at the state tennis meet, the Parkers drove across the state where Zek broke the state record in the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.3 — a record that still stands.
“I’ve known Zek since the seventh grade. You could see that he was going to be really good,” said former teammate Rashad Harris. “Zek was just phenomenal athlete. He learned how to run with track and he practiced his craft.”
Harris played football with Zek at Athens, the University of Louisville and later in NFL Europe with the Barcelona Dragons.
“He played a receiver, running back, kick returner. He was so dangerous,” said Harris. “Anytime Zek touched the ball, you were guaranteed to get positive yards. Anytime you got the ball in his hands, he was going to do something with it. That’s what made him so good.”
Both Harris and Parker earned all-state honors in football their senior year at Athens, drawing interest from college coaches around the south. Kirk Parker recalls how his son ended up choosing Louisville out of high school.
“The football coach was down here looking at Rashad Harris,” remembers Parker. “They saw something really fast on the film. And they ask, ‘Who is this guy?’ They took him up at Louisville and gave him a chance and offered him a scholarship.”
Harris, an All-State linebacker who now serves on the University of Florida coaching staff remembers it differently. “They knew about Zek, all they had to do was pull the trigger and offer him,” said Harris.
However Zek ended up at Louisville, the rest is history. The former Athens High excelled as a receiver and kick returner with Cardinals under head coach John L. Smith. Zek was named first-team All-Conference USA in 2000 and 2001. He still holds the Louisville all-time kickoff return record with 4,459 yards and five touchdowns.
Zek enjoyed a brief professional career with the Arizona Cardinals and Barcelona Dragons before entering the coaching ranks.