Spanning only 1,034 square miles, Rhode Island is by far the smallest state in the United States. The next closest being Delaware, which covers 1,949 square miles, but despite its small width, it arguably has one of the hottest prospect names in FCS football.
Rhode Island wide receiver Aaron Parker is the prospect located within a small state, but his name is swirling through league circles around the country. A unique story in itself, how did the Maryland wideout end up in such a small space? There's a lot that went into the seed that was planted, but now the flower has blossomed into something great.
Parker began playing the game when he was only four years old. A small flag football league in West Virginia, which is where he spent his summers with his uncle. A family member who just so happens to be Walter Easley -- a Super Bowl-winning (XVI) fullback for the San Francisco 49ers. Spending valuable time with his uncle, this is where he developed an everlasting love for the game and learned plenty of minor details.
An area where there isn't much to participate in besides sports, these circumstances helped him focus on the game and all the demands that came with it. The situation that he was placed in ultimately helped turn him into the player that he would eventually become.
The way that his game has expanded and flourished is something that Parker didn't even envision during his earlier years. At Gwynn Park High School (Brandywine, Md.), the 6-foot-3 receiver was not only a star on the gridiron, but he also had a promising basketball background as well. Labeled as the star of the team, he received MVP and All-Conference honors during his final season.
Despite all of his success on both platforms, the only school that truly recruited him at the time was Eastern Michigan. Ironically, Rhode Island came into the picture late, but the school showed intrigue in him only as a linebacker.
Eventually signing with the Rams as an outside linebacker, there was plenty of excitement after the program received his letter of intent off of the fax machine. Expected to be a heavy contributor on the teams defense as a true freshman, but a striking observation was made during an early training camp practice.
Playing around at practice, coaches noticed how natural of a catcher of the ball that he was, and they immediately approached him about converting to receiver. Parker took the challenge and ran with it.
As a true freshman, still new to the position, he recorded six starts in 10 games played. His shining moment came during his first ever college game during the season opener against Kansas (2016) -- he went on to record a 23-yard touchdown. From that point on, the switch turned on and stayed that way for the newly transitioned receiver.
Finishing his rookie season with 23 catches for 441 yards and four touchdowns, the Rhode Island coaching staff knew that they had something special in an 18-year old kid that still had no idea what he was doing.
Somehow still making plays, he carried over that momentum from his freshman year and into his sophomore campaign. His numbers continued to climb -- recording 51 receptions for 823 and seven touchdowns. Parker set a program record by catching a touchdown pass in eight straight games. Word began to get out about the little known prospect and what was not considered a secret anymore in the smallest state in the country.
Heading into an intriguing junior season, many wanted to see if Parker was now able to continue his upward trend now that he would garner most of the attention from opposing defenses. He passed those tests with flying colors, as he started in 9-of-11 games and concluded the season with career highs in catches (61), yards (972), and touchdowns (10).
Setting the record books on fire, the Rams star receiver became just the seventh player in program history to record 10 or more touchdown receptions in a single-season.
Coming into an all important senior season, Parker has already shattered many school records, including the program record for touchdown catches in consecutive games (nine), which was previously held by Bobby Apgar (seven) in 1994. Going into the fifth game of the season, the team is off to a challenging 0-4 start, but Parker has still managed to shine.
Already up to 35 catches, 595 yards, and four touchdowns, his production hasn't suffered any type of drop off despite the teams start to the season. Already recording a 12-catch, 227-yard performance against Delaware, Parker continues to be a key cog to the Rams offense that has managed to put up plenty of points already this season during the early going.
Heading into a crucial three-game road stretch, plenty of eyes will remain on the talented threat to see if he can stay on pace and continue to increase all of his previous career totals, but for now, the secret is out about the special player that's located in Rhode Island.