Vahe Gregorian

Overshadowed Ron Parker stabilizes Chiefs defense

Although sometimes overshadowed by others on the defense, defensive back Ron Parker (center) always seems to be doing what the Chiefs need him to, particularly when it comes to causing fumbles.
Although sometimes overshadowed by others on the defense, defensive back Ron Parker (center) always seems to be doing what the Chiefs need him to, particularly when it comes to causing fumbles. The Associated Press

Flamboyant cornerback Marcus Peters is on trajectory to shatter NFL interception records … if anyone ever throws his way again.

Safety Eric Berry is a fan favorite, as much for his punishing hits as for his identity as a cancer survivor.

Dynamic linebacker Derrick Johnson is the Chiefs’ career leading tackler, and counterpart linebacker Tamba Hali has more sacks than anyone in franchise history other than NFL Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.

All fans are aware of defensive tackle Dontari Poe — even if some of that is because of his escapades on offense — and about everyone is conscious of defensive back Daniel Sorensen after his pick-six last week.

And you know that linebacker Justin Houston is so good he could transform a pretty decent defense into a nearly great one if as anticipated he soon returns at full-speed from his knee injury.

Virtually anonymous in the middle of all this is DB Ron Parker, who at Division II Newberry College was known as “The Ghost” because of a knack for making plays by appearing out of nowhere.

He could hold the same handle here because he’s so overshadowed.

“Kind of a guy who goes below the radar,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said, in the same breath as he called Parker “one of my favorite guys. He’s the ultimate team guy.”

Obscured by the bright stars and the big plays as he might be, Parker has emerged as an essential in the mix.

Behind Johnson and Berry, he’s tied for third on the team in tackles with 26. He’s second only to Peters in pass breakups with six.

And he has two of the team’s five forced fumbles this season — including a momentous one in the 27-21 victory over New Orleans on Sunday.

With the Saints deep in Chiefs territory midway through the fourth quarter and a chance to cut a 10-point lead to three, Parker punched the ball loose from running back Mark Ingram.

“I think that play was crucial to our team,” Parker said after the game. “We needed a turnover or something to give us a spark.”

Naturally, most will remember the play for the fumble being scooped up by Peters, whose nose for the ball is a phenomenon.

But when Ingram spoke later of dropping “the dreams and aspirations of the team” in that moment, it was because of the work of Parker on a play that rather encapsulates what Parker is all about.

For a year and a half, Sutton said, the Chiefs have been making a point of emphasis of the so-called “Peanut Punch” patented by Charles “Peanut” Tillman, who forced 44 fumbles in his NFL career before announcing his retirement with a corresponding video in July.

So when Parker poked the ball loose on Sunday, as he also did a pass with the same technique earlier in the game, Sutton saw more than just plays made.

“That’s the guy embracing all the little things and trying to find a way to apply them,” Sutton said. “To me, it validated what we try to say: This stuff will work if you do it. And he made it work.”

It all also further validates an NFL career that was in doubt before Parker, 29, was acquired by the Chiefs in 2013 after being waived by Seattle, Oakland, Carolina and Seattle again.

In fact, Parker’s entire journey to this point was improbable.

He hails from a poor, rural South Carolina island setting that he once said had “a lot of woods (and) no street lights” and that his Newberry coach, Todd Knight, told me in 2014 you’d be shocked to see.

He felt too small for football for some years and ended up at Independence Community College before finishing at Newberry when his dreams of playing Division I fell short.

“So many times he’s been told this and that: Coming from a rough area. He wasn’t big enough. His academics weren’t good enough. Coming from a small setting in college,” Knight said in 2014. “I think a lot of kids would have given up. He kept fighting and kept scratching.

“And he’s still there.”

With more of a role than ever:

“Wherever we need him, he’s willing to do it,” said Sutton, noting that that had included playing cornerback against Oakland with two men hurt. “Very trustworthy guy. Dependable is the word I’d use.”

Even if you might not notice him much amid the glare cast by others.

Vahe Gregorian: 816-234-4868, @vgregorian