Despite the brisk temperature and relentless wind, Parker Mann emerged from Nixa’s locker room at Republic last Friday dressed like it was summer.
He was wearing shorts, no shirt, no socks and no shoes. That’s actually a fairly good example of the junior cornerback’s preferred choice of attire, or lack thereof.
Mann is unique among the Eagles in that he is sans socks on game nights, as well as during practices.
“I started that this summer,” Mann said. “I feel I can feel the ground better without socks and I can use my toes better. I know that sounds weird. But I feel like I am faster.”
Only one other Nixa player tried to follow Mann’s no socks mantra, but only briefly.
“One of the jayvee kids tried it, but said it gave him blisters,” Mann said. “I don't get blisters. I guess my feet are different.”
Mann’s feet aren’t immune from sweat and the ensuing odor they leave in his shoes.
“(Assistant coach Kyle Nelson) says my feet stink,” Mann said. “They do smell really bad. The locker room stinks because of me.”
Still, no mandate has been made for Mann to wear socks. No one is going to break up his routine, considering the spectacular impact he’s made in his first full season as a starter.
Entering this week’s Backyard Brawl against Ozark, Mann leads Nixa with an average of 11.6 tackles a game, to go along with five TFLs. His 53 solo stops are second only to all-state safety Spencer Ward's 57.
Mann recorded a career-high 17 tackles in Week Six versus Carl Junction.
He’s well on his way to an All-COC First-Team selection.
Mann has backed up his pre-season proclamation of, “This season is going to be the season people know who Parker Mann is.”
Nixa coach John Perry thinks anyone who doesn’t know Mann by now simply isn’t paying attention.
“Parker is part-human and part-animal,” Perry said. “He’s turned into one heck of a football player. He’s kind of like Spencer Ward, I hate to say that. But on the defensive side of the ball, he’s freakin’ good."
Mann is feeling fulfilled while filling his role toward helping Nixa (8-0) to a COC championship with one regular-season game still to play.
“I think I've proved myself and made a name for myself,” he said. “It’s a childhood dream being under the Friday night lights and making my name known.”
To know Mann is to know his superstitions. He has a strict regimen he follows as part of his preparation for game nights.
“I have the same routine,” he said. “I warm up, stretch, go to the hash marks and do my run-reads and pass-reads. Then, I stretch my neck. We go back in (the locker room) and come out and I go to the 20-yard line because that's where the red zone starts and that's where I feel our defense is the best. I pace back and forth 20 yards to the goal line.”
Mann attributes his superstitious nature to his favorite sport and its well-earned reputation of being filled with credulous characters.
“I'm a baseball player,” Mann said. “(Superstition) is what I grew up with.”