After a 26-year break, firefighter Wayne Parks is back on the gridiron (Photo by Peter Hvizdak, New Haven Register)
Wayne Parks Achieves Lifetime Goal at the University of New Haven
West Haven, Conn. (Saturday, October 17, 2009) – When 44-year-old Wayne Parks made the decision to head back to school at the University of New Haven to get the college degree in which he had always aspired, he found that there was another calling that he had to answer. A former high school standout, it was at the football field that Parks realized there was still a major void in his life.
“It came down to ‘I think I can,’” Parks commented about the decision to join the New Haven football team. “I’ve kept myself in shape, my job requires that. If you care about your job and having to carry people out of emergency situations, you want to be in shape.”
You see, Parks didn’t sit at a desk for an office job checking fantasy stats on Mondays and playing armchair quarterback on the weekends. When he heads into the office every day, this married father of three puts his life in harm’s way as a member of the Fairfield Fire Department. And although he last put on the pads in 1983 for Andrew Warde High School in Fairfield, Parks insists there are no regrets to his decision to play college football at 44.
“I don’t think it’s tough at all,” he said of playing. “There’s no derogatory humor on our team. It’s all in good nature.”
He also says that it has been easy to relate to the team even though his teammates are young enough to be his own kids, and his head coach is seven years his minor.
“It’s very easy (to relate with teammates) because I relate well with my own children,” stated Parks, whose oldest daughter is a senior in college.
With his return to the field at the age of 44, Parks has also found that a bit of fame has resulted from the decision.
“Do your teammates view you as a father figure, older brother or just one of the guys?” Parks was asked in a recent interview with Jay Crawford on ESPN First Take, to which he answered, “Yes, all of those.”
And while he has found time to be a father, husband, full-time firefighter and a college student-athlete, the Arson Investigation Major admits he can’t make time for everything.
“Sleep?” he remarked to a question from Crawford on ESPN. “I knew I was forgetting to put something in there!”
The University of New Haven Chargers, a former Division II powerhouse that just returned a football program this year after a six-year hiatus, are currently sitting on a 3-3 cumulative record. Considered by some to be an average position at the midway point of the season, the school and Parks both know that just getting back onto the field is a major accomplishment. Getting back to prominence may even be a bit easier after being under the national spotlight that Parks has brought to them.
The main story here is that Wayne Parks was an inspiration before he ever put back on his football pads. He got suited up every day and ran into burning buildings to save lives. The man is a hero for that. The latest chapter in his life where the 44-year-old returned to the college gridiron, however, is also one of amazing inspiration.
Whoever would’ve thought? A man that spent his life putting out fires would inspire all of us because there was a fire burning inside of him that he was never able to extinguish.