Parker Mann didn’t get his first name because his parents necessarily pictured him playing in a ballpark.
Given his family’s background, they couldn’t have had any premonition he would ever step foot in a ballpark or gridiron for that matter, much less develop into one of Nixa’s brightest two-sport prospects at the start of his junior year.
Eagles coaches will tell you Mann is the best athlete on campus most fans don't know. A few years ago, largely due to COVID, Jaret Nelson was characterized in the same manner at the start of his junior year.
“We're not an athletic family,” Mann said. “My brother did cross country in seventh grade, that’s all I know of. I don't know where my athletic (ability) came from.”
With Mann having earned a starting job on Nixa’s defense this summer and with him likely to start somewhere on the Eagles baseball team’s infield next spring, his family naturally is wondering what all the hubbub is about.
“They're curious and always asking me questions,” Mann said. “I answer the best I can in the simplest terms. I talk to my Mom (Kathy) about it a lot. She's my number one supporter. She goes to every single game for baseball and football. She always asks questions. She's trying to learn what I'm doing.”
Mann is splitting time between outside linebacker and safety. He’ll be a full-fledged starter for the first time, but did receive three starts at free safety last season that he’s thankful for.
“I was pretty nervous, I'm not going to lie,” Mann said of his first starting assignment, a Week 2 contest against Neosho.
“(The coaches) told me on Monday of that week I was going to start,” Mann said. “I got more and more nervous. After (the first play), I played my game. I felt more comfortable with what I was doing. I felt like I knew what I was doing.
“Now, I feel a lot more confident coming into this season,” he added.
Last fall and spring, Mann mostly watched idly by as classmates the likes of Wyatt Vincent, Caeden Cloud, Jackson Gamble and Colin Kelley became regular starters and even stars as sophomores in football, soccer and baseball.
Mann was the sophomore Nixa coaches repeatedly stated could start if not for the fact he was backing up very good players, mostly upperclassmen.
All the while, Mann toiled away on the junior varsity level with his eyes on the prize.
“Every time I stepped on the jayvee football field on Monday nights, I knew it was leading up to something,” he said. “I took it seriously, like it was a Friday night.”
There’s no one standing in Mann’s way now. It’s time for him to play to his potential.
“It was motivation to me, realizing people ahead of me were better than me,” Mann said. “It made me want to be a better player.
“It feels now like what I've been working on since I was a freshman is finally coming true,” he added. “It’s a good feeling.”