Thibodaux native’s journey leads to shot at Jets

Eric John (Easy E) Matherne
June 16, 2009
June 18
June 18, 2009
Eric John (Easy E) Matherne
June 16, 2009
June 18
June 18, 2009

Former E.D. White Cardinal and Tulane Green Wave center Michael Parenton sat by his phone through seven rounds and 256 picks of the NFL Draft on April 25 and 26 but did not get the call from an NFL team.

However, the son of Patrick and Joell Parenton wasn’t fazed.

Going into the draft, Parenton knew he would be a late round selection or a free agent signee, so going undrafted was in some sense expected.

But going undrafted could have proved to be one of the best things to happen to him.

According to Parenton, one of the advantages of being an undrafted free agent is the opportunity to pick a situation that gives him the best chance to make the roster.

For the Thibodaux native, that meant packing his things and making the trek to busy New York as a member of the New York Jets.

“It was just an opportunity to get in there to get some valuable time and valuable reps,” Parenton said of his decision to sign with the Jets. “The chance to play under a guy like (offensive line coach) Bill Callahan and also (head) coach Rex Ryan and the chance to learn under guys like (center) Nick Mangold and (guard) Alan Faneca and Brandon Moore, those interior guys that have a lot of snaps underneath them.

“To have a well-respected organization like the Jets give me a chance has been great so far.” Parenton said things have gone better than expected.

The former three-time All-Conference USA performer completed rookie minicamp last month and had his first chance to share the field with the veterans during offseason training activities (OTAs), which are still going on now.

Parenton said it is important for him to be able to keep up with the swift movement of the NFL.

“It’s been fast-paced and you don’t want to blink because you don’t want to miss anything,” he said. “It’s been fun adjusting to the speed of the game. I really can’t complain. Every day I am getting better with Coach Callahan and playing under Coach Ryan, so that experience has been great.”

The biggest challenge Parenton said he’s had to deal with so far is learning to make decisions on the field faster. Ironically, that hasn’t been a problem in the past. Parenton calls himself a cerebral player who can adjust when a situation calls for it.

Through the whole process, Parenton has had help from a former college teammate who is now the star of his own team.

Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte has been mentoring Parenton on life in the NFL and what to expect along the way. Parenton also credited all the veterans on the Jets with answering any questions he may have.

“Matt Forte has been a big help,” he recalled. “He’s been telling me what everything was going to be like and what to expect. The vets on the Jets have all been great so far as well. These guys are professionals. They know the spot I’m in and they know how it feels.”

One of the guys Parenton said he’s connected with is Faneca.

The former LSU Tiger and Pittsburgh Steeler guard owns a house in Thibodaux and lives in the area during the offseason.

Being from a small town like Thibodaux prompted many discussions about home between the two.

“We talk a good deal about it,” Parenton said. “We’ll see if we know the same people or go to the same places.

“Alan’s been great. He’s another one of those guys that anytime I have a question, off the field or on the field, he’s always willing to help.”

In his off time, Parenton said he’s usually doing something football related.

Whether it’s learning the playbook or watching film in the film room, Parenton said he wants to make the most of the opportunity he’s been given.

He hasn’t had much time for sightseeing despite being in one of the busiest cities in the U.S.

“The city is outrageous because it’s so many people and it’s so fast,” he said. “Overall, it’s just been business around here, just getting our work done and putting in our time. I’ll get my sightseeing in later, but right now it’s just business, trying to make this ball club.”

“I’m not going to waste this opportunity,” he added.

Like all rookies, Parenton understands he is competing for a roster spot on Sundays. If things don’t work out, he said he’d use his master’s in accounting to find a job or go into coaching like his father.

But all that is on hold until his football career is officially over.

He’s already looking forward to the team’s first preseason game – at home Aug. 14 against the St. Louis Rams and has an idea of what will go through his mind when he steps onto the New Jersey Meadowlands turf for the very first time.

“This is it,” Parenton said about his pregame thoughts. “This is what you worked for and you have the opportunity to make the most of it. You can’t miss out on any opportunities that you get because you never know when your next chance is going to be. Every snap that comes, make sure you know what you are doing and you go at it full speed so that the coaches can get a full evaluation of you and you won’t have any regrets.”

Former E.D. White and Tulane center Michael Parenton was signed as an undrafted free agent by the New York Jets. The Thibodaux native is currently going through rigorous offseason training in an effort to make the Jets’ final 53-man roster. * Photo courtesy of TULANE UNIVERSITY