Derek Parish dominated at the defensive end position in college with the Houston Cougars. But when he was selected as a seventh round pick at 240th overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday, the position listed beside his name was fullback.
That is the type of versatility Parish presents in the game of football.
Parish’s long journey at Houston commenced in 2017, when he was redshirted. He quickly became an impact player for the Cougars before transforming into a full-time starter in 2020. As a junior in 2021, Parish elevated his game to another level by warranting a Second Team All-AAC selection. He was one of the defining pieces of a Houston defensive line known under the moniker of “Sack Ave.” and Parish produced 5.0 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss for a 12-2 Cougars squad.
In 2022, Parish was ready to take over the college football world by storm. In Week 2 against Texas Tech, Parish won Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week honors for a performance consisting of 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, 11 total tackles, and a forced fumble at Texas Tech. The only counter to Parish’s sheer dominance was injury. In Week 4 against Rice, the defensive end suffered a season-ending torn bicep — putting a halt to his All-American pace. In just three-and-a-half data points, Parish registered 5.0 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
But in his time away from the game, Parish began focusing on the NFL Draft process. It was during his recovery period when he realized his skill set could also thrive at the fullback position. Parish played one snap of fullback at Houston in the 2020 New Mexico Bowl, but the quick learner familiarized himself with route trees and blocking in order to become a multi-positional star.
At Houston’s Pro Day in March, Parish participated in drills pertaining to both the defensive end and fullback positions. Although he measured as an undersized defensive end at 6’0”, 241 pounds, his athleticism caught many eyeballs with representatives from all 32 NFL teams in attendance. Parish ran a 4.62-second 40-yard dash, 4.07-second shuttle, and clocked in at 6.76 seconds in the 3-cone drill. The explosive defensive end also excelled in the vertical jump with a 37-inch measurement.
Parish’s size likely prevented the star defensive end from appearing in an earlier round, but the Houston star’s versatility can allow him to thrive in a myriad of positions in the NFL — including fullback. He joins a Jacksonville Jaguars squad fresh off an inspiring AFC South championship run. Parish could provide immediate impact on special teams and serve as a key blocker in an upstart offense led by franchise quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
The Pearland, TX native is the third Houston Cougar selected in 2023, following wide receiver Tank Dell and quarterback Clayton Tune. Parish also extends the Cougars’ streak of producing defensive line NFL Draft talent to three consecutive seasons — as Logan Hall was selected in 2022 and Payton Turner in 2021. He is only the second Houston product to be selected in Jaguars’ history.