Darius Parish has learned to find opportunity in personal setbacks.
As a highly-rated major-college prospect out of North High who eventually signed with Kansas, Parish probably didn’t see his professional debut coming in the Champions Professional Indoor Football League.
But Parish is part of the best defensive line in the league and has helped the Wild reach the CPIFL championship game against Salina on Saturday night at Hartman Arena.
“We have a lot of good players who were (Division I) who deserve the play at the next level,” Parish said. “I feel I should, too. We got to the point where we’re playing for the championship, so I think we’ve been successful.”
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Parish sat out the year between his freshman and sophomore seasons at Kansas because then-Jayhawks coach Turner Gill planned to switch Parish from defense to the offensive line.
That experiment was short-lived, however, and Parish was moved back to defense with KU and played there after he transferred to Central Methodist, an NAIA school in Fayette, Mo.
As the Wild’s 6-foot-4, 330-pound nose tackle who also plays on the O-line, Parish is an effective run-stopper who has seven tackles for loss and 2½ sacks.
“That’s where my mentality is primarily set, is on defense,” Parish said. “I feel that I’m more aggressive trying to get to the ball than protect the quarterback. I can do both, but my demeanor is more towards defense.”
A potential position switch was the least of Parish’s worries early in his KU career. In late 2009, Parish was arrested on the felony charge of making a criminal threat along with three misdemeanors.
Parish said the charges were dropped, and he was allowed to remain playing for KU. It was a period that Parish said “changed my approach toward my life and career.”
The tumult prompted Parish to pursue work with at-risk youth in urban areas — he’s working at a special-education center in Wichita and will try to make a career of that work after he’s done with football.
“I’ve been through what some of these kids have been through at the juvenile level,” Parish said. “I have a pretty good sense for all that.”
Parish said he has become more mature since he played collegiately, but he’s still a character on the field.
Parish is known to cut up while playing to keep himself and his teammates loose, but he balances it with a serious approach to the game that keeps his performance from slipping.
“If you’re doing what you’ve got to do, you’re going to have fun,” Parish said. “I’m not a trash-talking guy. If I make a good play, I’m going to celebrate with my teammates, I’m going to have fun a little bit. I’m more of a nice guy on the field. I don’t want to be angry or tend to get angry or be mad or anything like that.”
The seriousness will probably take precedence over the humor Saturday night. Parish and his fellow linemen, including elite sack artists Matt Moss and James McCartney, will chase league MVP Dane Simoneau, formerly of Washburn.
Having taken steps to solve his maturity issues and back in his comfort zone on defense, Parish is working to refine his game so he can earn a look from the NFL, an accomplishment that would signal an end to his setbacks.
“I feel playing defensive tackle at the next level, I need some improvements in some aspects,” Parish said. “A few more little heres and theres, and getting in top condition and dropping a few more (pounds), I’ll be good to go.”