John Vallely, the guest speaker at the 50th annual Athletic Awards Breakfast, challenged high school seniors with a question Wednesday morning.
Speaking about accomplishing feats, Vallely asked, "How will you ever know unless you dream big?"
The question hit home with the 30 student-athletes, 15 from Corona del Mar and 15 from Newport Harbor during the breakfast hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Commodores Club at the Radisson Hotel in Newport Beach.
The challenge can definitely be applied to Newport Harbor football standout Parker Norton. And, he isn't backing down.
Parker, just as all of the athletes in attendance, accomplished a great deal in high school. But he wants more. On the surface it may appear he is against great odds, as he enters the University of Colorado as a preferred walk-on, but that just serves as more motivation.
Vallely, a Corona del Mar alumnus who excelled in basketball at Orange Coast College and starred at UCLA, had the drive to succeed. He spoke about the Pyramid of Success and delivered several statements for the athletes to keep in mind.
Parker listened, took it all in. He could identify with a lot of Vallely's words. Parker is driven. He won't quit, as he plans to give Colorado football his best shot.
"Make sure you have no regrets about your effort," Vallely said.
With the work that Parker has been putting in lately it's as if he's saying, "Yes sir."
Parker, who is 6 feet tall, began his senior football season at 178 pounds. But because of contributing so greatly as a defensive back and wide receiver, he ended the year at 162. As he narrowed his college choice to Colorado, Parker knew he would need to work harder to find success with the Buffaloes.
He has been training rigorously, with purpose. He's bulked up to 188 pounds now.
"I knew I had to pick it up a notch going to that level," Parker said.
He's been working out with John Iverson, an ex-Recon Marine. If you've been near the Back Bay, you might've seen Parker, running up hills 80 yards while carrying two 50-pound railroad ties and wearing a 15-pound vest.
"I normally train MMA fighters, I'm used to training pretty hard core people," Iverson said. "As far as Parker goes, there is no quit in him. He doesn't know the meaning of the word. And I push people hard."
Parker has also performed pool training and worked through breathing exercises so he'll be ready for the high altitude at Colorado.
"He hasn't checked out since the season ended," said Newport Harbor football coach Jeff Brinkley, who sat at Parker's table with Parker's parents, Kirk and Julie. "He's a great player, a great competitor. He does everything correct in terms of getting himself ready. He's going to walk on at Colorado and he'll do some great things there because he's one of those guys who is very driven. His work ethic is one of the best we've ever had. I think some good things will happen for him there."
Parker will know at least one player on the football team at Colorado. Ryan Iverson, a former Newport Harbor player, is a friend and also serves as an example for now. Ryan, John Iverson's nephew, arrived at Colorado as a walk-on. Now he's a scholarship player as he's been depended upon as the Buffaloes' long snapper.
Parker believes he can earn a scholarship too. He'll try to be a slot receiver for Colorado, and a holder catching the snaps from his buddy Ryan.
But Parker knows he must put in the work for the storybook-type setting to unfold. Parker does have confidence and motivation. The confidence comes from his past, and overcoming adversity.
Before Newport Harbor, Parker broke his left leg. While playing a game with his Costa Mesa Pop Warner team, a player fell on his leg and it broke.
"I took a year off," Parker said. "I wasn't sure if I would play again."
But Parker worked hard to rehab the leg back to full strength. In his freshman year, he broke his collarbone and had to come back from that too.
"I never thought to give up," Parker said. "No matter what happened, even in the bad times, I wanted to work harder."
In his senior season, it all came together for Parker, as he was named Daily Pilot Dream Team Player of the Year. He was one of the top players in the Sunset League.
Not bad for a small, white kid from Newport Beach. That label is something that motivates him too, he said. He said it's something that he's accepted, but he's out to prove that's not what he's all about.
He plans to prove it at Colorado.
Student-athletes honored at the breakfast for their work in and out of the classroom included: Corona del Mar's Morgan Boukather, Danny Cheek, Nick Curci, Donald Dalton, Brian Ford, Spencer Haly, Claire Ham, Devon Hoppe, Shane Korber, Garrett Larson, Lindsey Luke, Will Morrow, Preston Risser, Maddie Schwartz and Chase Watson; Newport Harbor's Ryan Andrews, Bradley Beaudette, Maddy Brown, Cody Caldwell, Catherine Carpenter, Parker Norton, Clay Pinckney, Mark Sakioka, JB Salem, Madeline Storch, Stephanie Storch, Natalie Swift, Chris Whitelegge, Sarah Wilkey and Mary Yeager.
All of the student-athletes' accomplishments were impressive. These will be names to keep in mind as they are on the right track to achieve great feats. A name to keep in mind for sure: Danny Cheek.
The CdM basketball standout seems to be just scratching the surface for what he can accomplish. Cheek, a three-time Daily Pilot Dream Team honoree, believes his best days are ahead of him at Northern Arizona University.
That's where he plans to work the hardest he's ever worked, he said.
"When people say the word 'potential,' I think college will pull that potential out of me," Danny said. "I think college is really where I'm going to sprout and open up as a player. I think I can become a great player in college, a player to watch."