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Old September 19th, 2003, 06:29 PM   #15
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<font size=5>Neil Parry finally gets his moment on the field in fourth quarter</font><BR>
Knight Ridder Newspapers<BR>

SAN JOSE, Calif. - (KRT) - As it turned out, the question Thursday night wasn't how did Neil Parry play? No, the question was would the San Jose State special-teams player ever get onto the field?

Parry might have been ready to play for the first time since he suffered a compound fracture that led to the amputation of his lower right leg three seasons ago.

The Spartans' defense was not.

Its inability to stop Nevada from cruising up and down the field prevented Parry, a member of the San Jose State punt-return team, from playing until 13:20 left in the game.

"I'm feeling bad for the Spartan team, not just Neil," Parry's father, Nick, said with Nevada leading 26-10 at halftime. "It's a little frustrating. But they'll bring it together."

Every time it appeared Neil would play, Nevada made yet another first down. The Wolf Pack converted three third-down plays on their first possession and finished the first half 7 for 8 in that category.

"I wish I was still out there on defense," Parry's older brother, Josh, said at halftime. "Get a little inspiration going."

Once Neil Parry entered the game, he joined the punt-coverage unit and was blocked at the line of scrimmage before heading downfield. Josh Parry threw both hands in the air, exulting at seeing his brother in the game.

Josh was a standout linebacker for San Jose State the year Neil was injured and is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad.

"Right now he is probably more nervous than anything," Josh said at halftime. Playing "in the first half would have been great because he could have saw how it was going to go. But regardless of what happens, I'm proud of him."

Parry, 23, a fifth-year senior, spent much of the first half either standing alone or near Keith Allen, the Spartans' special-teams coach. In the third quarter, with Parry still on the sideline, the crowd urged the defense to make a stop.

But as it chanted "De-fense, de-fense," Nevada quarterback Andy Heiser converted another third-down play, completing an 8-yard pass to Nichiren Flowers to the Nevada 30.

Things immediately quieted down, and the Wolf Pack drove for another score.

Parry said during in the week that he visualized many scenarios for his return. This probably wasn't one of them.

All attention was on Parry long before the game kicked off. Cameras greeted Parry as he made his way from the team bus about 4:30 p.m. From there, Parry made the short walk to the locker room, where his dream began to come into focus.

"He definitely had his game face on," said his prosthetist, Mike Norell, who checked in with Parry in the locker room shortly before 5.

"It is unbelievable how good he looks," Josh Parry said. "I'm so proud of him. Words can't even describe it. I just admire him so much."

Neil emerged from the locker shortly after 6 p.m., holding hands with reserve wide receiver James Jones as a double-file line of Spartans headed to the field.

A swarm of media shadowed Parry, scribbling notes, snapping photos and shooting video as he stretched with his teammates near the north end zone.

"That a baby, Neil," a man shouted from the bleachers, tapping his heart as he pointed toward Parry.

"There are a lot of unknowns tonight," Chuck Bell, San Jose State's athletic director, said as he watched warm-ups.

Asked how Parry looked in the locker room, Bell said: "He was in a zone."

Parry overcame so many obstacles to make his return a reality, on the field and off, Bell wondered if the day would come.

It wasn't until last spring, when Bell attended a ceremony in Phoenix in which Parry received the Gene Autry Courage in Sports Award, that his faith was restored. Parry's brother, Josh, was there as a surprise guest.

"At that point, I felt again that, yeah, he would make it," Bell said. "It was so moving."

It took more than a half for Parry to play Thursday night. But once he did, he at long last fulfilled the promise he made to himself Oct. 14, 2000, the day he got hurt.


? 2003, San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.).
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