Toledo CB coach Corey Parker will be busy at NFL draft

The Blade

Read Article on Toledo Blade 

Corey Parker hears from his former high school players so often that he worries about breaking NCAA rules.

Clemson defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro asked for advice before playing Wake Forest quarterback Sam Hartman. Tennessee cornerback Kamal Hadden called Parker the night before the Alabama game. Oklahoma safety Reggie Pearson, Jr., had questions before the Sooners played Oklahoma State.

“I was so worried,” Parker said. “I was like, ‘Is this an NCAA violation?’”

Parker is entering his third season as Toledo’s cornerbacks coach. He came to the Glass City after 13 seasons as head coach at River Rouge High School in Detroit, building the one-time doormat into a state championship program that routinely supplied college football’s best teams with high-end talent.

There will be a reunion of sorts this week between the former head coach and his players. And with a Hollywood twist, the encounter will take place in Detroit, of all places, at the NFL draft. Parker calls it divine intervention.

Orhorhoro, Hadden, Pearson, and Toledo cornerback Quinyon Mitchell are projected to be selected. Fellow Toledo CB Chris McDonald, Jr., could be a late-round selection. The draft haul for Parker won’t be far behind Nick Saban, Kirby Smart, and Jim Harbaugh.

“Corey Parker made a huge difference in people’s lives in the little city of River Rouge,” Hadden said. “His motivation and his energy, the way that he was raising us and coaching us, it was more than just being a coach. He was a father figure. He was an inspiration. He’s a guy that you look up to and you want to be.”

The story begins in Nigeria for Orhorhoro, who immigrated to the United States when he was 8 years old. Football was not an immediate factor in his life. The now 6-foot-4, 294-pound colossus, believe it or not, used to be “hella small,” as Orhorhoro defined it. His mom wouldn’t let him play football, so Orhorhoro blossomed into a basketball maven.

Incredibly, he didn’t start playing football until his junior year. But Orhorhoro caught on quickly. The sacks came at such a brisk pace that just three games into his career Toledo offered him a scholarship. Eventually, Orhorhoro became one of the top defensive tackles in the country.

“[Parker] was the one who told me to start playing football,” Orhorhoro said. “He saw something in me. He took a chance on me. He never left me alone because he cared.”

When Parker comes into your life, he’s there to stay. He didn’t get into the coaching profession with outsized ambition. He simply wanted to be a change agent in young people’s lives.

Talk to a River Rouge player or a Toledo cornerback, and it’s readily apparent that Parker has influenced them. He oozes charisma and magnetism, characteristics that explain why players gravitate to Parker and seek his input.

“I was with him for four years at Rouge,” Pearson said. “Everybody knows his personality. He’s outgoing, professional. He does a lot for all his kids. He definitely spoke out a lot for me. I’ve always been appreciative of him.”

The relationship between Parker and Mitchell is only two years old. But it’s a bond that’s as strong as reinforced concrete. Parker was a rookie college coach in the spring of 2022 when he and Mitchell were linked. Mitchell was coming off a breakthrough season in which he started all 13 games, finished with eight pass breakups, and caught everyone’s attention with a noteworthy performance at Notre Dame.

They didn’t know it, but the pairing was ideal. Mitchell wanted an honest assessment, and that’s the only way Parker knows how to coach. Two years later, Mitchell is a two-time All-American and a soon-to-be first-round draft pick. Talent alone didn’t usher Mitchell to this level. He thanks Parker every step of the way.

For Parker, this week is the culmination of 18 years as a coach, as a handful of former players he mentored on the field and counseled off the field will hear their names called on one of football’s grandest stages.

Parker will be in a familiar position, by their side.

“The fact that all of these guys are in this space, and they’re all great men, they all got their dang college degree,” Parker said. “They all did some of the things that I’m very passionate about, being a great person, doing well academically, doing things the right way. And look at them now.”

First Published April 23, 2024, 2:24pm

Get In Touch With Us

1317 F Street, NW Suite 920 Washington, DC 20004 | P 800.974.7957 F 888.762.5151 |