Be it on the football field or a throws event venue in track, Cole Parker never lacks inspiration. His parents Trisha and David are constant motivation.
David Parker is still working six years after being diagnosed with late-stage cancer and given only months to live. Trisha Parker also continues to work despite serious back issues, ensuing procedures and other ailments.
“I don’t know how they do it every day,” said Parker, who was named the Gene Bissell Male Athlete during the annual Yotee Awards ceremony late last month.
The Dr. F. Gene Bissell Male Student Athlete of the Year award is named for the late Dr. Franklin Gene Bissell who arrived at Kansas Wesleyan in 1950 as an assistant football coach and assumed the head coaching role in 1952 and remained in that role until retiring from coaching football in 1978. Bissell remained at KWU until fully retiring in 1994. While at KWU, Bissell also coached track and field, served as assistant basketball coach, helped reinstate the baseball program twice, and was a willing advocate for the addition of women’s athletics. He also served as Athletic Director and a professor in the Kinesiology department. The field at the former Glenn Martin Stadium was named in his honor in 1994 and the field was rededicated in his name at the opening of the Graves Family Sports Complex in 2015.
Parker, a standout defensive end in football, was an NAIA Honorable Mention selection in 2021 and First Team All-Kansas Conference choice in 2021 and 2022.
In track he qualified for the NAIA National Outdoors Championships in the javelin in 2022 and the 2023 Indoors Championships in the shot put. This spring he has qualified for the NAIA Outdoor meet in the javelin and shot put later this month in Marion, Ind.
Parker was chosen the KCAC Field Athlete of the Meet at the conference meet Friday in Hillsboro after scoring 24 points in the shot put, javelin and discus. He holds school outdoor records in the shot put and javelin and the indoor shot put.
“It means a whole lot of work has been put in,” Parker said of the Bissell award. “First off, I’ve got to thank my savior Jesus Christ. Without him I wouldn’t be able to do any of it.”
Parker also has a deep appreciation of Bissell.
“(KWU football coach Matt) Myers talks about Coach Bissell and what he did for the program to get it moving,” he said. “It started with a lot of hard years but looking at where we’re at now it means a lot to win that award.”
For Parker, though, throwing a 16-pound shot put or battling massive offensive linemen and tackling opposing ball carriers are nothing compared to what his parents, particularly his father, have and continue to endure.
“My dad was diagnosed my senior year of high school on my mom’s birthday,” he said. “The doctors told him he had six months and he looked at them and laughed. They were like ‘why are you laughing?’ He said ‘I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, you’ll see.’
“He’s had multiple major surgeries and gets (chemotherapy) every Wednesday but still goes to work every day. They got a new doctor because their cancer doctor left. The new doctor was 20 minutes late to their first meeting and was like ‘my bad, took me two hours to read your file.’ The doctors are baffled by him.”
Parker competed in football, wrestling and track in high school and came to KWU on a football scholarship.
“I was told I was too aggressive for the basketball team so I wrestled,” he said. “Wrestling was probably my best sport of the three. I wrestled for 16 or 17 years and use it as my discipline. You show up, you do the work and if it’s not good enough you do it again.
“Some people think I’m a little crazy and do too much but without being a little crazy where are you going? That’s when you get stagnant and you can’t fix stagnant. If you’re comfortable there’s something wrong. That’s how I see it.”
Parker competed in football and track at Shasta College (Calif.) before KWU. He was unaware Wesleyan had track and knew he missed competing in the throws.
“They said go talk to coach Shaq (throws coach Shaquelle Lewis),” Parker said. “I did and said ‘let me come out tomorrow.’ Technically I was too late because it was April and they had three meets left before the conference meet. We talked again and he said ‘you can come out but don’t waste my time.’ I said ‘don’t worry I’m not going to waste your time.'”
Two days after joining the team Parker qualified for the 2022 NAIA outdoor meet in the javelin during KWU’s meet at Bethel.
“That’s when it got set in stone that I was a track athlete and never really looked back,” he said.
Parker is unsure what is next after this year but has some options. He has eligibility left in indoor track and could compete next season.
“There are some football opportunities that are presenting themselves but I really don’t want to leave throwing yet,” he said. “I’m still going to chase the opportunity in football but I’m also going to chase track too. I spoke with (track) coach (Kyle) Hiser and he said I could be on the indoor team and for outdoor I’ll travel with them as an unattached. I’ve got a few GA opportunities here on campus too.
“Whatever God’s plan is I’m going to go with it.”