Class of 2014
Athens High School won back-to-back football state championships in 1975-76. The foundation for those teams began three years earlier with the school1s first undefeated team in 1972.
One of the pillars of that team was All-State running back Paul Parker, who will be inducted into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame Saturday as part of the 2014 Class.
“It’s a privilege to be in the Limestone County Hall of Fame. I feel really good about it,” said Parker. “It1s been nearly two decades since I played football. As I always tell people, anything worth having, is worth waiting for. If it would have taken another 20 years, it would have still been worth it.” Parker was a terror in Athens’ backfield in the two seasons he played for the Golden Eagles. He was voted the team1s Most Valuable Back award and received All-Tennessee Valley Conference as well as All-State honors. His 1,043 yards were the most in the TVC in 1972.
Parker helped carry the172 team to the school1s first playoff appearance, first undefeated regular season and first team to be ranked No. 1 in the state polls. “That was a great year,” said Parker. “We played where the middle school is now. Against Cullman, there were over 8,000 people there. I never saw so many people at a football game. We beat them and went undefeated that season.” Athens won that game 23-13, but lost a second round playoff game to the Bearcats 6-0 to finish 11-1. Despite coming up short that season, Parker believes his team laid the foundation for future successes at Athens.
“That undefeated season led to two state title teams after we left,” said Parker. “The guys that came behind us wanted to do something that had never been done before. Those (titles) were very much influenced by us.” All that success came during a tumultuous time in Alabama high school athletics. Schools were beginning to integrate as desegregation spread across the South. It was during this time that Parker transferred from
Tanner to Athens before his junior year.
“It was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Parker. “All the coaches knew about the Parkers coming out of Tanner. We set a lot of records at Athens. It was a good move for me.” Surrounded by new faces, Parker excelled in his first season at Athens before going undefeated in the regular season his senior year.
“It was a special team,” remembers Parker. “We all played together. Black and white, it didn1t matter. I made friends with a bunch of new guys. We clicked on all cylinders. We had a lot of support from the community. To hear that many people calling your name was special.” Parker received a full scholarship in football to Abilene Christian College in Abilene, Texas. He was a member of that school1s first national championship team in 1973. Parker said his coach at Albilene, Wallace Bullington, was one of the most influential people in his life.
Athens School System hired him in 1997 to teach physical education and coach the middle school football team. Parker1s teams enjoyed undefeated seasons in 2001, 2002, 2008 and 2009.
Parker and wife Mildred have been married 31 years. They have five grown children: Calvin, Mirael, Paul Jr., Sheliah and Jennifer.