One of Chadron State College’s all-time outstanding football players, Mike Parks, died on Monday, May 24 in a Denver-area hospital. He also had an exceptional 35-year career with the U.S. Forest Service after working at the Pine Ridge Job Corps Center while he was in college. He was 71 years old. Family members said he passed away a few days after suffering a heart attack.
A native of Compton, Calif., Parks followed his older brother, Ken, to play football at Chadron State. Ken arrived in 1966 and was a four-year starter at fullback. Mike came in 1968 and, according to a special feature summarizing his career printed in the CSC media guide, “started every game during his four years at CSC and never missed a minute of playing time because of injuries.”
At the end of the season his senior season in 1971, he became the Eagles’ first All-American football player since Tom Blundell of Chadron in 1958. He also was named to the Nebraska College Conference and NAIA District 11 all-star teams in both 1970 and ’71. In addition, Parks was placed on the Nebraska State College all-star teams selected by both the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal his junior and senior seasons.
Bill Giles, who was Parks’ head coach all four years at CSC, called him the best defensive lineman he ever coached. “He was a great competitor and did everything we ask of him all four years,” Giles was quoted as saying.
Defensive Coordinator Jerry Cullen noted that opponents definitely tried to run away from Parks in tough yardage situations. “We feel extremely fortunate to have had Mike play for us the past four years,” Cullen added.
During his final three seasons with the Eagles, Parks was credited with 78 unassisted and 182 assisted tackles. He also recovered six opponents’ fumbles.
Both of the Parks brothers were inducted into the Chadron State Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993. Mike also was among the 58 men placed on Chadron State’s All-Century Team Football Team in 2014.
Parks was born to Aaron and Mildred Parks on Sept. 10, 1949 and graduated from Compton High School in 1967. He received his degree from Chadron State in August 1974. While earning his degree, he worked at the Pine Ridge Job Corps Center south of Chadron that is managed by the U.S. Forest Service
He initially was paid through college work-study funds, then received a full-time federal appointment.
He was later employed at Job Corps Centers in South Dakota, Wyoming and Wisconsin. His tenure with the Forest Service included four years as a staffing specialist at the Washington, D.C., office. In 1995, he was transferred to the regional office in Denver and became the human resources officer for 19 Forest Service Job Corps Centers across the nation.
Parks retired in 2006, and continued to live in the Denver area until his death.
Survivors include two daughters, Kim and Melissa, both of Colorado. Kim and her husband, Darrell Diggs, live in Centennial and have three children, Vivenne, Alexander and Diana. Among the other survivors are a sister Norma Suber of Portola Valley, Calif., and brother Ken of Las Vegas, Nev.
A celebration of life for Parks will be June 19 at the Ballard Family Mortuary at 6700 Smith Road in Denver. His remains will be interred at the Inglewood Park Cemetery in California.