July 18 encapsulated Shawnee Mission East senior kicker Parker Willis’ priorities. In the morning, Willis, as he often does, went up to the high school. He worked with his snapper and practiced his kicking and punting.
Then, Willis, heavily involved with Leawood Presbyterian, headed to the church at 4 p.m. for practice for that night’s Vacation Bible School skits. From 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. he performed skits and helped the kids with various activities.
Since it was the last night of VBS, the high schoolers stayed at the church from 8:30 to midnight playing games and hanging out together. That weekend, Willis headed to another prestigious kicking camp in Wisconsin.
Faith, football and traveling the country are the three main focuses for Willis.
His Twitter account has 1 Corinthians 10:31 (so whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God) and two football photos – one kicking his well-known 56-yard field goal and another one on a kickoff.
“My faith is a really big part of my life and football,” Willis said. “I’m really involved with my youth group at my church and Klife, which is another group similar to youth group. All my best friends are in these groups and we’re all really close, and the leaders have been a really big part of my life, leading and guiding all of us spiritually.”
Football is the only sport Willis plays, and he has already earned scholarship offers from Army West Point and Air Force. Last fall, Willis earned statewide attention when he kicked the 56-yarder at the end of the first half against Shawnee Mission North in a 59-6 Week 5 win.
Then-SM East coach Dustin Delaney walked over to Willis before the kick and said the Lancers were probably going to try a field goal. Willis looked out and saw East was around midfield.
“Wow, that is far,” he said.
Willis had little nerves and SME gave him a great snap and hold along with good blocking. He made the attempt with room to spare. The length was one yard off the state record of 57 set by Blue Valley’s Mike Ross in 1993 and Shawnee Mission West’s Sean Simoneau in ’94.
“Then everyone came running at me,” Willis said.
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Willis is now entering his third year as a starter. He can bench 175, squat 275 and clean 190.
As a sophomore, Willis made 37 of 39 extra points. Last year, he made 8 of 9 field goals and 57 of 59 extra points. SME went 9-2 and averaged 41.1 points per game. The Lancers rarely punted but Willis had a 39-yard average on three punts.
Willis was born in Texas and went to elementary school in Pennsylvania. His dad got a job transfer and could move to Portland or Kansas City. Willis said the family “didn’t know anything” about either place but chose Kansas City.
“We have liked it a lot since coming here,” Willis said.
Willis played soccer and started kicking his freshman year. Delaney, who finished 52-8 with a state crown in ’14 and then took a job in Colorado after last fall, asked if any soccer players wanted to kick. Willis tried out and made the team.
In the winter after his freshman season, Willis attended his first camp to start learning how to kick. Willis realized he really enjoyed the sport and “might have a chance to be good at it.”
Including family trips and kicking camps/showcases, Willis has been to 40 of 50 states. For kicking, he has traveled to many places, including Yale, Iowa State, Southern Methodist, North Texas Chicago, Dallas and Florida. He attended the University of Missouri camp in late July.
Many of the camps are through the prestigious Kohl’s Professional Kicking Camps. In the 2017 Kohl’s Midwest Winter Showcase, Willis ranked fifth in kickoffs. His Hudl video shows multiple SME kickoffs booming out of the end zone. Willis has met friends from all over the country and often sees the same specialists at Kohl’s. He listed kickers from Michigan and Kentucky as two of his good friends.
“That’s been really fun to see them at all these camps,” he said.
This season, Fred Bouchard, a three-decade veteran with five Missouri state titles, is the new Lancer head coach. Willis has set goals to win state and “have fun as seniors.” His goal is to kick at the Division I level, a path that should help positively in the future.
“Married with a great family,” Willis said of 10-year goals. “With a good job through the college degree I will have gotten through playing football.”
Chet Kuplen, Managing Partner/Founder of Sports in Kansas, on Parker Willis
"He's got a big-time leg and definitely has Division I talent. It's one thing to kick a 45-50 yard field goal in practice, but he kicked a 56-yarder in a game. He's also very accurate in his PATs. There aren't always a ton of opportunities to kick a long field goal either, especially for a team with a dominating offense the last several years. Hopefully he can get a shot at a state record this year. The kickers in Kansas this year are solid and we have them all the way from 8-man to 6A. Parker also gets it done in the classroom with a 4.0 GPA, so he's much more than just a kicker a school is getting. They will be a getting a high quaility student athlete. East has some solid pieces back and bring in a long-time successful coach in Missouri. Should be an exciting season.I also have to give a big shoutout to Coach Delaney for making this program a 6A power out of nowhere in a short amount of time and leaving it as one."
How did you get involved in football?
I started kicking freshman year. I played soccer and the football coach asked if any soccer guys wanted to
be the kicker, so I went out for it and made the team.
What are your goals this season?
To win the state title and have fun as seniors
Do you guys have a shot to make a run this year?
Yeah we have a lot of good guys this year
What makes you such a force as a player?
The fact that not many teams have good kickers, and a good kicker is valuable
What’s the atmosphere like to play football on Friday night for your school and town?
It’s amazing, our student section is always big and crazy, and it’s just such an awesome atmosphere for
the Friday night games.
For anyone that hasn’t seen one of your games, why come to one?
We have a really high powered offense and score a lot of points. I think we averaged somewhere around
40 to 50 points a game last year.
Who are other key players on your team?
Our quarterback Andy Maddox, our defensive end PJ Spencer, linebacker Tyler Stottle, cornerback/safety
Favorite thing about football?
Just the team aspect of it. Our team is great and we have a lot of fun together, and it’s just a great big
Do you play any other sports, tell us about that?
No just football
What is it like to play for your coach?
We just got a new coach this year, Coach Bouchard. He’s great, he’s been coaching for over 30 years so
he’s got lots of experience and wisdom, he’s a great coach.
What did you and the team do in the off-season to become better and plans to get better this summer?
Just gave a lot of effort in the weight room and during practices throughout the whole summer.
What interest are you seeing at the next level and what are your plans?
D1 interest, I don’t know where I’ll get to go yet but hopefully somewhere good.
Favorite thing to do when you aren’t playing sports?
Play guitar with my really good friends, one of the guys has a lot of instruments at his house so we go
over there and have lots of fun with all of his stuff.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Married with a great family, with a good job through the college degree I will have gotten through playing football.
Favorite subject in school, what type of student are you, GPA?
History is my favorite subject, I love American history. I’m a pretty good student; school isn’t my favorite
thing but I do well. I have a 4.0 GPA
Who is your role model?
My grandma. She’s one of the wisest people I know, and she always pushes me to be stronger in my faith
and a better man.
Best place to eat in your town or the surrounding area?
Either Char Bar or Q39, both amazing BBQ places in Kansas City.
One thing the average person wouldn’t know about you?
I’ve been to 40 of the 50 states
Anything else to add that we won’t want to miss in this story?
My faith is a really big part of my life and football. I’m really involved with my youth group at my church
and Klife, which is another group similar to youth group. All my best friends are in these groups and
we’re all really close, and the leaders have been a really big part of my life, leading and guiding all of us
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