Cam Tucker - Metro Vancouver
It wasn’t the finish Cord Parks – or the B.C. Lions, for that matter – was hoping for.
Everything before, at least for Parks, was rolling in his favour. He asserted himself almost right away at training camp in his first year with the local Canadian Football League team and didn’t look back.
The 27-year-old import defensive back threw a massive hit on receiver Marco Iannuzzi at camp, and from that point on, he instilled himself as a play maker in the Lions’ veteran secondary throughout the 2013 season.
He led the Lions with six interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and finished second in the league in this category, behind Geoff Tisdale of the Montreal Alouettes.
Without hesitation, Parks can remember every one of his picks.
“I knew I wanted to come up here and have an immediate impact and help this team win games,” Parks said Tuesday, as the Lions held a locker clean out at their Surrey practice facility, two days after losing to the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the West semifinal.
“How it would be done, I didn’t know if it would be interceptions, if it would be tackles, whatever the case may be. I was prepared mentally to come up here and help this team and be successful.”
The Lions signed Parks in May. He was originally one half of the package coming to Vancouver as part of a trade with the Argonauts that sent gregarious and sometimes embattled defensive lineman Khalif Mitchell to Toronto.
“I had high expectations for Cord but if I was honest with you, he was a pleasant surprise,” said head coach Mike Benevides.
“As a first-year B.C. Lion, he would’ve been the strongest player. He was everything that we needed at that position and he was a tremendous addition to our club and I’m thankful that were able to find him.”
Sunday’s loss to the Roughriders was still raw when Parks cleaned out his locker and hung around to bid farewell to his teammates for the off-season.
“The main goal was to win a Grey Cup,” he said.
It was a common sentiment.
The Lions had played three quarters of solid football on the road in Regina.
Their running game was dynamic, contributing three touchdowns on the day.
Travis Lulay was throwing the ball and running the offence better than most expected, considering he hadn’t started a game since Sept. 15 due to a shoulder injury.
The defence, in the cold, had managed to contain star running back Kory Sheets.
The fourth quarter, however, would be the Lions’ undoing.
It was a disappointing end to what would classify as a breakout season for Parks, who spent time with four NFL teams from 2009 to 2012, before coming up north.
The nuances of the Canadian game – specifically the larger field and receivers able to run up to the line of scrimmage at the snap – initially proved difficult challenges for Parks. He overcame them rather quickly.
“But one thing about this game, once it break past the line of scrimmage, it’s regular football,” he said.
“After you see all the trickery … I was able to see that and once I took that out of the picture, it was regular football.”
And, as for that hit on Iannuzzi, well, it was an eye-opener for many. The emphatic start of great things from Parks.
Listed at 5’11” and 180 pounds, the Northeastern product might be considered under-sized. His opponents seem to think so.
“My nature is I’m a physical little guy,” said Parks.
“I’ve always been complimented on that from the NFL, to getting up here with these guys. I hated being called small, a little guy … especially for what I do. ‘Oh man, you a small dude.’ Guys still talk crap to me during the game. ‘Oh man, you need to eat, you need to do this.’
“But when it comes down to it, If I come down and bop you, I want to see you look up to see ‘who was that?’ It’s all a part of the game and like I said, I had fun. I definitely had fun.”