The seating arrangements at Big Whiskey’s following Nixa’s season-finale a year ago couldn’t have worked out any better for Parker Mann.
Mann, a backup sophomore cornerback at the time, gained a mentor that night.
“My family was eating and Spencer’s family was sitting next to us,” Mann said, referring to Eagles safety Spencer Ward. “Spencer turned to my Mom randomly and said to her, 'I've got him.' That's all he had to say. Ever since that day, we've been like brothers. I’ve looked up to him”
Mann absolutely flourished while under Ward’s wing this season.
The junior outside linebacker averaged 10.5 tackles a game while posting eight pass deflections, seven TFLs, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, two quarterback sacks and one blocked punt.
“My junior season, I'm really proud of it, not only how I did, but also our team,” Mann said. “The brotherhood we have, we really bonded. It was one of my favorite groups that I've ever been around.”
"He was fantastic," coach John Perry said while summing up Mann's junior season. "I kind of hate to compare anybody to Spencer, but Spencer and Parker are very similar with their mindsets. Parker is a tough, hard-nosed, rugged kid."
Mann’s breakout heroics have changed his perspective on how he views himself and how he’d like his future to play out. Previously, he considered himself a baseball player who played football in the fall.
“Once Friday night hits, the lights are on and I hear my name called, all of that fuels me. It's so fun to be out here. I love it,” Mann said.
Looking ahead, Mann is no longer solely focused on working his way toward an opportunity to play college baseball. He’s now open-minded about playing college football.
“It's a hard decision I don't really want to make,” he said of possibly choosing which sport to play in college. “If I have a preference, I'd like to play both sports in college. Whatever is open for me.”
“I know he’s a big-time baseball guy. But I think he could have a future in football,” Perry said. ‘He could have some options, which is an outstanding position to be in."