Over the next few weeks, two athletes at a time will be profiled, and you'll hear about what they've accomplished while representing Mr. Jefferson's University this year. The athletes are presented in a totally random order so as to hopefully not imply any endorsement one way or another. Athletes from all fields are considered; the point is to emphasize that UVA is about excellence across the entire department and doesn't shortchange its so-called non-revenue sports simply because they don't make headlines. Today's athletes: Kevin Parks and Danielle Collins.
Kevin Parks - Football - Running back
-- let's just skip this part
-- Consensus all-ACC selection (media, coaches, Phil Steele, Athlon
-- VaSID all-state
-- First UVA player with 1,000 rushing yards since 2004
-- 2nd in ACC in rushing yards
I'll tell you right off, I debated myself over and over about whether the football representative should be Parks or Ant Harris. Harris was first-team-everything and even an all-American to some, on the strength of his eight interceptions. That is an astounding stat. And the fact that a 2-10 team can have two strong candidates for this is equally astounding. I have, in the past, omitted football from the nomination list on the grounds of not having any deserving candidates, so it's not like I have to have one.
I picked Parks for two reasons. One, the 1,000 yards (to say nothing of 329 receiving yards) is a season-long grind; eight picks is rare and really hard to do, and not to minimize the accomplishment, but it's eight bolts of lightning. If Harris had had four, he'd never have had all those accolades, so in a way, he's there because of four plays. Parks was just simply excellent all season long. And two, sometimes the nomination is a lifetime-achievement thing. It's worth highlighting that not only did Parks provide a season-long bright spot in a dark and dismal season, but he's been building up to that for a while. He might've hit the 1,000-yard mark in an earlier season if he weren't splitting carries in the past, and remember: Parks set national records as a high-schooler: most 100-yard games, most carries, and third-most yards. Old Spice - why Old Spice, I don't know, but Old Spice - named him the national player of the year as a senior.
So if I couldn't call him a COY nominee then, I'll do it now, on the occasion of breaking a 10-year-old drought. Parks has proven himself a workhorse and a leader - he's a team captain - and pretty much exemplifies the attitude you want out of the guys (and gals) representing the school.
Danielle Collins - Women's tennis - No.2 singles
-- ACC champions
-- Reached NCAA quarterfinals
-- National singles champion
-- All-American (obviously)
-- ITA Atlantic Region Player to Watch
-- ITA Atlantic Region singles champion
-- Two-time ACC Player of the Week
Maybe we're not a lacrosse or basketball or baseball school. Maybe we're a tennis school. The men have had an outstanding team for a while now, but the women are starting to catch up. Remember, it took a little while for the team to land its first team national title, but had some individual champions before then. Here come the women, following that path.
It's hard to argue with a ring, to be honest, and Danielle Collins has one now. She's only a sophomore, too - though a first-year Hoo, having transferred in from Florida this year. Unofficially, I think this is the first time I've had a nominee in their first year after transferring in. Collins actually played mostly #2 singles for the year, not #1, and Julie Elbaba did advance far enough to be an all-American herself, but, y'know, ring. There's quite an assortment of other accolades, too, as Collins had a really good indoor season as well. But when you start talking national championships, it starts to overshadow everything else you - and perhaps the other candidates - have done.