With a bit of money in their pocket and a lot of time off, it’s easy to believe that pro football players could let their minds wander to other endeavors during the offseason.
The distractions can be around every corner, even for those who choose to return home rather than explore idyllic holiday destinations. It’s summer, after all, and bodies are still hurting from the rigors of intense battles and disillusionment can set in.
But seeing your hometown team win their first Super Bowl just weeks after destroying you and the team you play for is motivation enough to work harder, so that’s what Will Parks did ahead of his third training camp with the Denver Broncos.
“I trained the whole time,” he said. “Even throughout OTAs, me, Von [Miller], and [Bradley] Roby were working out extra and making ourselves better in every aspect of our games.
“Throughout the summer I was with Chris Harris in Dallas in April and in July — I just came back from Dallas — my game is at another level, my conditioning is off the charts, and my whole game as of Dallas has definitely improved.
“I’m going into year three. This is my second offseason. I think I’ve had the best offseason I’ve ever had.
“Obviously, next season will be better and the year after that, but this offseason I’ve been my most productive.”
As the Broncos spluttered to a 5-11 season in 2017, Parks had a difficult time on defense as he and his teammates were often torched in some humiliating defeats.
Pro Football Focus stats won’t make for happy reading but, having played almost 600 snaps on defense last season, Philly Will knows full well what the problems were.
Of course, the blame doesn’t rest solely on the defense alone, but that doesn’t stop Parks — as a sixth-round pick out of Arizona in 2016 — articulating that he still has much to prove. To himself as much as anyone else.
“We lost eight straight games,” he added. “When it comes to losses, everyone is to blame. You can’t just put the finger on someone or one aspect of our game. When you lose a game as a football team, you’re a team, so that’s the worst part of last season.
“From my personal perspective, I’ve got to do a better job as far as making plays on defense and special teams. That’s what I pride myself on each and every day. That’s why they brought me here and just being able to come up in more clutch moments and taking my game to another level, and I plan on doing that.
“I’m excited to get out there throughout training camp and showcase my abilities once again and prove to myself that I can be a great player and not just a great player, but a legendary player.”
There has been a talk of a culture change within the Broncos locker room in 2018 as the team looks to turn a corner from two seasons without playoff football after winning Super Bowl 50 a couple months before Parks was drafted. Veteran coaches and players have left, replaced by younger models.
Second-year head coach Vance Joseph has proven he is no stranger to coachspeak and clichés: “more accountability” is de rigueur at UCHealth Training Center.
At 26, Parks is no stranger to slogans. He has a few himself. Professional sport is full of them, often repeated incessantly and not always with a great sense of clarity, but he cautions against complacency when it comes to repeated mantras.
Actions speak louder than words and he fully believes in his vision for what the Broncos can achieve if they truly see it then work to make it happen.
“You’ve got to envision something for it to happen,” he said. “You can’t just go out there and preach about it and repeat the same slogans that everyone uses. You’ve got to go out there and put it into action.
“When you wake up you’ve got to see it. When you eat you’ve got to eat football. When I’m sitting around in the house, I’m envisioning the plays. I envisage picking someone off, taking it for a pick-six to win the game — you’ve got to see it in order for it to happen, and I’ve seen a lot so, hopefully, it comes to life.
“Coach is making everybody more accountable. He’s putting a lot on the table and what he wants to get accomplished. At the end of the day, that’s a Super Bowl.
“If everybody can buy into that, and that culture, I think we can do that. I know we can do that. We’ve got too much talent not to accomplish what we want to do, and that’s to get a Super Bowl.
“I’ve been in the NFL two years and I ain’t gone to the playoffs, and I’m hungry.”
This is part one of our three-part interview with Will Parks. You can read more on Sunday, July 29 and Monday, July 30 as part of our coverage of Broncos training camp 2018.