By Justin Jarrett
The Ghost is hanging up his cleats.
Beaufort’s Ron Parker announced his retirement from professional football via social media Monday morning, bringing an official end to an unlikely NFL career.
“Who would (have) ever thought little old me coming from Newberry College would play that long in the NFL?,” Parker said in his message posted across social media. “I don’t know (anybody) who left D2 early as a junior in college and went on to play at the next level and do it for that long.”
Indeed, Parker’s journey was unconventional.
Mostly overlooked coming out of Beaufort High School, Parker landed at Independence Community College in Kansas looking to get his academic credentials in order in hopes of scoring a big-time college scholarship before winding up at Newberry.
He was a standout for the Wolves, but NFL scouts don’t pay a lot of mind to middling NCAA Division II programs, so The Ghost continued to go mostly undetected. The Seattle Seahawks took a chance on Parker as an undrafted free agent in 2011, but he spent two years bouncing between franchises and fighting to earn a promotion from the practice squad to the active roster. He appeared in just five games in 2011 — three with the Oakland Raiders and two with the Seahawks — and five more in 2012, split between the Seahawks and Carolina Panthers.
Then came the call from Kansas City, and his first big break.
Parker joined the Chiefs in 2013 and played in all 16 games, starting one. He was a solid contributor who picked off two passes and recovered three fumbles in limited action, and his efforts resulted in a starting role in 2014 for legendary coach Andy Reid’s team.
After starting 15 games and playing 96 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps in 2014, Parker was rewarded with a five-year, $25 million contract with Kansas City, which ended up taking him through the end of his career when the team waived him following the 2018 season.
“Coach Reid will go down in my book for one of the greatest to do it,” Parker said in his social media post. “This man believed in me when no one else did. Can’t thank (him) enough for what an unbelievable career I had.”
In all, Parker played in 105 NFL games over eight seasons, starting 78. He finished with 394 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 11 interceptions (one touchdown), five forced fumbles, and five fumble recoveries.
And one heck of a story to tell.
“Nobody could walk a mile in my shoes on the route I had to take for success,” Parker said. “I’ll walk that same path and change nothing if I could do it again. Thank you, God, for a healthy and blessed career.”