The best vocal leaders on a football team are not always very vocal at all.
It’s just that when they do talk, it resonates. After all, their teammates understand if the speakers are committed.
Parker Henry is for real.
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So is Zack Marshall.
Tanner Nelson, too.
They are some of the leaders from the Skyview, Camas, and Union football teams. All three of them will have something to say Saturday when their teams take the field in their playoff games.
Skyview hosts Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma at 4 p.m. at Kiggins Bowl in a Class 4A state quarterfinal game. Union will be in Bothell to face Woodinville at 2 p.m. at another 4A matchup. Camas hosts Meadowdale of Lynnwood at 5 p.m. at Doc Harris Stadium in a 3A quarterfinal.
“This year I’ve taken on a bigger role,” said Parker Henry, Skyview’s running back and the 4A Greater St. Helens League’s offensive player of the year. “Being a senior and a captain, it’s kind of in the job description to step up and be a vocal leader.”
Henry has rushed for more than 1,800 yards and scored 26 rushing touchdowns this season. But it takes more than that to earn respect. If he was just talented, he could not demand attention from his teammates, his coach said.
“It’s what he’s done for this program as a whole, his body of work,” Kizer said, recalling his breakout season as a sophomore and then his legendary workout regimen within the Skyview program. Henry also has a 3.3 grade-point average.
“He’s just outworked everybody in the area,” Kizer said. “He’s one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around. I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”
Marshall, Camas’ running back who is the 3A GSHL offensive player of the year, has scored 21 touchdowns with more than 1,400 yards from scrimmage. Speaking up is relatively new to Marshall.
“Being a captain, getting into the leadership role, was definitely a transformation for me,” Marshall said. “I’ve been talking more. This is my team. This is our team. As a captain, as a senior.”
Camas coach Jon Eagle said all coaches in their careers have seen phoney vocal leaders in the locker rooms. But he said the athletes themselves can see right through someone who is just talk.
Marshall, Eagle said, is genuine — an athlete who does so much on the field, but is even better off the field. Marshall has a 3.95 grade point average.
“If you’re not doing it in the classroom, or on campus, we’re not impressed,” Eagle said. “Kids get respect because of their actions. They’re champions on and off the field. That’s why Zack Marshall is such a strong leader. He’s not vocal by nature, but he fills that need. He jumps out of his comfort zone and fulfills that role.”
The trend continues at Union. Tanner Nelson is the 4A GSHL’s defensive player of the year. A three-year starter on football, he helped the Titans to the Class 3A semifinals in 2009 and then was part of Union’s 2010 state championship basketball team. He carries a 3.90 grade-point average.
“Those actions speak for themselves,” Union coach Cale Piland said. “He’s been there from the get-go. He’s had the experience of competition and playing at a very high level. As a result, he’s earned that respect.”
A funny story regarding Nelson was in 2009 he was penalized for taunting. The official must have got the wrong guy because Nelson barely spoke as a sophomore.
“He doesn’t know how to taunt,” Piland said with a laugh.
He also does not use poor language.
“Swearing doesn’t get me pumped up,” Nelson said. “It’s never motivated me. I just try to find positive things to say, reasons why you should be pumped.”
Marshall says he speaks up in the locker room before games now. In the last couple of weeks, he has always known his theme going into the talk.
“I remind all the seniors that it might be our last night playing,” Marshall said of the playoffs. “Get ready to go. Focus up. Get focused. Get ready to go.’ I say what I have to say. I guess they’re listening.”
“I take it as a responsibility and a little more personally this year,” Nelson said. “The mood of the team is up to me.”
Henry, along with other team captains such as Kieran McDonagh and Reiley Henderson, talk in the middle of the team’s “We Ready” circle prior to games. The team sings softly while the captains say what’s on their minds, then the singing gets louder and louder, and the players start jumping.
“It’s not really a scripted thing,” Henry said. “It just come to me.”
With leaders on and off the field giving the pep talks, Skyview, Camas, and Union are as ready as they can be heading into the quarterfinals.