Family of late Utah Olympic athlete and Paralympic coach feeling support from around the world
Aug 26, 2023, 1:38 PM | Updated: 1:41 pm
CLEARFIELD, Utah — The Davis High football team showed two of their teammates love Friday night, wearing red, white, and blue to stand by the boys and their family after a tragedy.
Meanwhile, some of the world’s best athletes are also sending their support, as sports communities across the globe rally for the family of Dr. James Parker.
Playing against Clearfield High on Clearfield’s turf Friday, the Davis High crowd yelled and cheered, filling the visitor side with the sound of team spirit.
“OK, come on boys!” mom Kami Parker yelled, looking out at the field.
She was cheering on her two sons, #35 Jarom Parker and #23 Johnny Parker.
“They both started, and Johnny as a ninth grader, was able to make some yards and get a first touchdown on a run. So that was fabulous,” Kami Parker said.
Normally the boys don’t start, but the team’s quarterback Tradon Bessinger and outside linebacker Carter Dorius let Johnny and Jarom take their starting positions.
“Just get his first start in. Just get that hype for him and just like, live the moment for once” Bessinger said.
The team found out that the boys’ father, James Parker, died last Saturday. He was just at their last football game the day prior, cheering on the team.
“I was overcome with emotion. So, I decided to text my coach and ask if Jarom could start in my place tonight,” Dorius said. “It’s bigger than football, so I knew we had to gather around Jarom and Johnny and show them that we love them, because that’s what they need right now.”
Sitting in the stands, Kami Parker watched with pride along with her four other kids, but without her husband.
“He’s bigger than life,” she said, getting choked up as her voice started to shake. “He just … if you met him, you would never forget him because he’s that kind of guy. He’s that kind of guy, where it just, once you know James Parker — you know him.”
The Davis High sports community knew James Parker, but so did another sports community, on a global scale.
James Parker, who owned a chiropractic clinic in Kaysville, was known to be humble about his achievements and world-wide connections.
“I’ve met a lot of people that when they met him, they had no idea he was an Olympian, and a three-time national champion, and a multiple-time All-American,” David Blair, one of Parker’s lifelong friends said. “They have they have no idea about his accomplishments because he just never, ever talks about them.”
A retired Olympic athlete who made it to the Athens Games in 2004 to compete in the hammer throw, James Parker became Blair’s coach in the Paralympics.
Blair credits Parker for bringing home gold from Rio de Janeiro in 2016 in discus throw. James Parker was also part of the medical team for Team USA.
Blair explained that Parker traveled to Tokyo in 2021 to serve as a chiropractor for able-bodied athletes at the 2020 Summer Games, then returned to Tokyo for the 2020 Paralympic Games, where Blair again competed.
“They go see Doctor Parker, he gets them better, he gets them fixed, and they win a gold medal, or they win a silver, or a bronze,” Blair said. “A lot of athletes requested that he be on the team to take care of them. They had so much confidence in him being there, making it so that they could perform well. Amazing guy.”
After James Parker’s death, his Team USA family paid tribute to him in Budapest during the World Athletics Championships. According to an Instagram post by the team, Laulauga Tausaga-Collins became the first-ever women in Team USA history to win a world discus title.
In the post, a photo shows an overjoyed Tausaga-Collins holding up the American flag, with her coach standing next to her screaming in support, holding up a sign that says, “Dr. James Parker RIP 8/19/23 Love you.”
You can see that Instagram post here.
These athletes may have James Parker to thank for their medals and wins, but on Friday night, it was Kami Parker and her family who were feeling thankful to all of them.
“There are so many thousands of people that are just surrounding us and helping us, and just making every moment count,” she said.
Support has also been pouring in on a *GoFundMe fundraiser, to help the family as they figure out what life will look like them for now.
Family members traveled in from out-of-state to attend Friday’s game, with everyone in the stands wearing red, white, and blue for James Parker. The entire stadium observed a moment of silence at the start of the game for him, and it was announced that his two sons would be starting.
“The football team, I can’t even say enough about their support and love,” Kami Parker said. “And it’s just been… there’s no words for it. It’s so touching.”
*KSL TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.