When people think of Putnam City North, naturally, Sam Bradford comes to mind. Obviously, having a Heisman Trophy winner as an alumnus is a fairly good way to garner more than just a little positive publicity.
While Bradford, the University of Oklahoma star and soon-to-be NFL quarterback, is practically a household name on a national scale, PC North has produced its share of other standout athletes over the last 30 years.
That list includes Lance Parker. Unless you happen to be a soccer fan, you probably haven't heard of him " at least not yet. But you may have seen him featured pictorially in magazines such as Men's Health or Cosmo Men, and had no idea he is a professional soccer player for Chivas USA.
When Parker isn't earning a living as a goalkeeper for the Los Angeles-based Major League Soccer franchise, he can usually be found at his second job: modeling. It's something he's been doing since an agent approached him in an airport last year and told him he had "a good look" for the business.
"I was definitely skeptical at first, but the guy calls me a few days later, we talked about the possibilities, and I decided to give it a shot," said Parker, who graduated from PC North in 2004. "It just kind of took off from there."
While soccer remains his first passion, there is a certain allure to his new gig the 24-year-old Oklahoma City native has embraced.
"At first, it was mainly about making some additional income. But I've really enjoyed it, especially meeting so many different people, traveling and doing something totally different," said Parker, who has also appeared in publications such as Angeleno and Sports Authority.
At the moment, he is undergoing rehabilitation for a torn quadriceps muscle he suffered back in September. He has missed almost eight weeks of playing time and will be faced with working his way back into the mix when he returns.
So why not skip the physical punishment an MLS player is subjected to daily and focus on the modeling career?
"I'm enjoying the modeling, and while it's something I definitely want to continue to explore, my dream has always been to play pro soccer. I want to play soccer for as long as I can. It's what I do," he said.
Indeed, soccer has been the catalyst for Parker, going all the way back to his days growing up around Lake Hefner. He started playing the game at age 4 and has been excelling ever since.
"Lance has a lot of God-given talent, but he has enhanced that by working harder than anybody else and by being highly disciplined and highly motivated and highly competitive," said PC North soccer coach Tom Pecore. "He knew back then he wanted to play pro soccer and he was very much willing to do what it took to make that happen.
"Also, what makes him special as a soccer player is the fact he plays for the love of the game. There is a passion there that runs very deep."
Parker starred for the Panthers soccer program during his final two seasons and only lost three games during his varsity career at PC North. It is a period of his life he recalls with fondness.
"To have the chance to play all four years at North for Coach Pecore, I could not have asked for a better situation. He's been a major influence in my life and has played a big role in the journey to where I am now," said Parker, who eventually earned an athletic scholarship at Missouri State, where he twice earned second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honors.
While in college, he spent his summers playing in a professional development league that gave him the opportunity to face top-caliber competition from around the world. It was there, while playing for the Colorado Rapids, that a coach named Leo Percovich first noticed Parker playing goalkeeper " and eventually signed him to a pro contract.
"Lance is probably the best soccer player to ever come out of Oklahoma, and that's saying a lot. He's just a special athlete," Pecore said. "On top of that, he's an outstanding young man in all phases of life. I see great things in the future for Lance. And he deserves it all." "Jay C. Upchurch