Dave Parks, a 1960 Abilene High graduate who became Texas Tech’s first football All-American and played in the NFL for 10 seasons, died Aug. 7 at his home in Austin. He was 77.
“Dave Parks will forever be remembered as one of the greatest Red Raiders of all-time,” athletics director Kirby Hocutt said in Tech’s announcement of Parks’ death.
In 1966, Parks finished as runnerup to Dallas Cowboys tackle and former Throckmorton standout Bob Lilly in an annual poll of top pro athletes in Texas.
He was named in 1993 to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame and College Football Hall of Fame in 2008. He is a member of the Big Country Athletic Hall of Fame, chosen in the second class in 2003.
Parks played for three NFL teams, earning first-team All-Pro notice in 1965, 1966 and 1967. Perhaps as great an honor was that he played for legendary Abilene High coach Chuck Moser, whose teams won 49 straight games and three straight titles in the 1950s.
Two-way star at Tech
David Wayne Parks was born in Muenster, about 80 miles north of Forth Worth, on Dec. 25, 1941. The family moved to Abilene when he was to enter sixth grade.
“As a ballplayer, he was fearless, aggressive and played with nerves of steel,” classmate Ed Conley said in an email. Conley added that he was discouraged from playing football in junior high, and his observation was that the athlete was “a quiet man who seemed to be deep in thought and feelings.”
At Tech, from 1961-63, he was an all-Southwest Conference selection and as a senior was named an All-American. In an era when fewer passes were thrown than today, Parks had 80 receptions, a school record, and caught 32 passes in a season, also a Tech record at the time. He hauled in eight catches for 132 yards against Kansas State in 1963, both single-game records.
Parks has held the longest scoring play record for the Red Raiders, though it wasn’t on offense. Also a defensive back, he returned an interception 98 yards against Colorado in 1962.
He is in Tech’s Ring of Honor, Hall of Honor and had his jersey (No. 81) retired.
49ers made him first pick in ’64
He was the first draft choice 1964, taken by the San Francisco 49ers. Only two other receivers have been the first pick of a draft, Irving Fryar (1984) and Keyshawn Johnson (1996).
As a pro, Parks was a wide receiver, split end and tight end. He started 50 games over four seasons for the 49ers. He caught 208 passes for 3,334 yards and 27 touchdowns. His long TD catch went for 83 yards.
He led the league with 80 catches in 1965, gaining 1,344 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.
He went to the New Orleans, after the franchise began in 1967. He started 55 of 63 games for the Saints, with 149 catches for 2,254 yards and 16 TDs.
Parks’ final season was with the Houston Oilers. He saw limited action, catching only three passes in five games.
He played one year in the World Football League before retiring.
For his pro career he had 360 catches for 5,619 yards and 44 touchdowns. He averaged just over 15 yards a catch.
Interested in CTE
Parks is survived by his wife of 57 years, Susan, and three children.
He donated his brain to the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University School of Medicine, according to his obituary. The university is studying CTE and repetitive head impacts.
Greg Jaklewicz is editor of the Abilene Reporter-News. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.