A healthy Tre Parmalee would bolster KU Jayhawks receiving unit


SEPTEMBER 2015 – Kansas wide receiver Tre Parmalee can still close his eyes and remember those dreamy days as a kid in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the living room with his dad, Bernie, and sharing their love for football.

“My dad was sitting on the couch throwing me the ball, tossing the ball,” Parmalee said. “I would catch it and throw it back to him.”

It was their sanctuary, their own little world.

“We would enjoy father, son time,” the younger Parmalee said.

As Parmalee got a bit older, his first memories actually playing football were with a YMCA team “just playing flag football with my friends winning a bunch of games with our team and having fun with our guys.”

Bernie, who played nine-years in the National Football League career with the Miami Dolphins (1992-98) and New York Jets (1999-2000), was too busy playing to coach his son growing up, but was always there for Tre’ in heart and spirit.

“He would make games when he could,” said Parmalee, the former Bishop Miege standout. “He was always supportive. He was always one of my biggest supporters.”

With Parmalee expected to be a primary cog in the receiving corps, his dad, who is the Oakland Raiders’ running backs coach, has given his son some sage advice for his senior season: “Just go out and be myself and have fun, be a good teammate, work hard and set goals for myself and the team.”

Parmalee, 5-10, 171 pounds, has taken those words to heart. After a banner spring, he’s continued to work hard and separated himself in fall camp as one of the team’s top receivers. After injury-plagued sophomore and junior seasons, Parmalee is eager to showcase his skills on game days for new coach David Beatty and Jayhawk Nation.

“My conditioning is definitely better for this up-tempo offense,” Parmalee said. “Coach (Je’Ney, director of strength and conditioning) Jackson did a great job with the strength staff. Coach (Klint, wide receivers coach) Kubiak is helping me with the little details in my game, little things of using your hands and details of running the routes to get better separation.”

Parmalee is just glad to be feeling 100 percent after a trying last two seasons. After excelling his first year in 2012 and being named Freshman All-Big 12 as a kick returner by ESPN.com, Parmalee was limited by injuries to just seven games in 2013, catching nine passes for 74 yards. He played only six games last year after a preseason injury, recording only four passes for 21 yards.

For Parmalee, the setbacks have been heartbreaking after such a promising freshman season. Still, he remains positive about his struggles.

“It’s been hard,” he said. “It takes you out of your groove you’ve been in. It’s definitely hard psychologically on you because you keep getting hurt, it just keeps happening. But you have to rely on your teammates and coaches to lift you up. I also rely on God because I’m strong in my faith and that’s what I believe in. I just try to rely on those things to get me back. It was definitely hard, but it was all for a reason and I’m ready to get going this year.”

Is he ever.

Beaty, Kubiak and junior quarterback Montell Cozart believe Parmalee is due for a breakout year.

“Tre’ has been really consistent (in fall camp),” Beaty said. “He’s a quiet guy and you don’t hear from him a whole lot because of that. But he just goes and does his job. If the ball’s close, he’s making plays, which is good. I’ve enjoyed that. We’re going to have to call on him to do that.”

Said Kubiak, “I expect everything he’s got. He’s a leader of our group. He’s extremely mature. He knows what he wants and he’s working hard to get it. As far as he goes, that’s how far our (receiving) group will go. He’s our leader, he sets the tone. He will have a productive season, if it’s an explosive season that will be up to his teammates helping him but he’s definitely going to help us win games.”

Cozart and Parmalee were teammates in high school. When Cozart was a Miege junior and Parmalee a senior, he set every school single-season receiving record with 1,164 yards on 82 receptions and 15 touchdowns. Their friendship and bond on and off the field have only grown now in college.

“Tre’ is going to have a great year,” Cozart said. “In basketball you say a gym rat, he’s kind of like a football rat if that makes sense. He’s always in the film room, he’s always lifting, (he’s) on the JUG machine catching extra balls, staying after (practice running) extra routes. He pays attention to detail really well. He’s like a big brother to me, coming from Miege. I’m always asking him questions, different things to help us out. When we’re in man to man, I can put the ball in a certain spot and Tre’ is going to be there … and he’s going to go get it.”

Despite a mostly unproven receiving corps, Parmalee has high hopes his fellow receivers will “go get it” in the Air Raid offense.

“The sky’s the limit for us right now,” Parmalee said. “We have a lot of talent. We have a lot of new guys, a lot of young guys who can play, a lot of older guys who can play. It’s just a great mix. We have great coaching in coach Kubiak and coach (Rob) Likens, offensive coordinator. The sky’s the limit for what we can do this year.”

Bernie Parmalee, who served as an assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2010-12 and was on former KU coach Charlie Weis’ staff last season, finished his Ball State collegiate career as the all-time leading rusher in school history with 3,483 yards and 26 touchdowns. Parmalee played in 134 NFL games, starting 26, rushing 567 times for 2,179 yards and 17 touchdowns while catching 168 passes for 1,485 yards with three scores. He also returned 16 kickoffs for 289 yards and logged 123 special team tackles.

With his dad creating his mark in college and pro football, Tre’ was asked what kind of legacy he wants to make at Kansas, which hasn’t gone to a bowl game or had a winning season since 2008.

“I just want to be known as someone who always gave their all, somebody who was a great teammate, someone who helped their team achieve things people didn’t think they could achieve,” he said. “I just want to be someone who helps turn the program around and puts it in a right direction.”

Article by David Garfield

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