Trio of Central athletes secure futures in their sports

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By Mark Clark

There were no big secrets on where Central High football players Peter Parrish and Ray Thornton were going to continue their sports careers, or where Vennessa Frank was either. The biggest surprise was the look on Parrish’s face when he was about to explain why he was a little late for the signing ceremony held at the Red Devils’ indoor sports facility.

As Parrish started to explain, a reporter said, “We know. Your iron wasn’t working.” Parrish had a puzzled look on his face as the reporter and others began to laugh.

“How did you know that?” Parrish asked.

Thornton had spilled the beans on his high school teammate and fellow Class 7A state champion Central Red Devil.

When asked had Thornton seen Parrish? Thornton said he had.

“We both live in the same apartments and he came over and asked to borrow our iron. His quit,” Thornton told reporters.

And that ended the biggest surprise for the crowd of over 100 who attended the signing ceremony.

Parrish and Thornton, barring any last minute changes of heart, had made their decisions months ago – before they began their championship run with the Red Devils. Parrish gave his verbal commitment to LSU and Thornton had promised his signature to Clemson.

Frank, a three time state Class 7A track champion for Central, selected Texas State as her future destination.

Parrish was recruited to LSU by Tigers running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Tommie Robinson, who is also a former Central player and assistant coach. Parrish was unaware of the ties Robinson had to the Red Devils when he was first recruited by the second-year LSU assistant coach.

“I didn’t know that. But, when I found out about it, it made building a relationship with him and LSU easier,” Parrish said.

Parrish attended an elite camp at LSU just prior to the season and was offered a scholarship before the camp ended. Parrish was the only quarterback signed by LSU during the early signing period and one of three athletes from Alabama.

The Central senior signal caller is a true dual threat at his position. He threw for 2,920 yards and ran for another 1,312 yards during his final two seasons with the Red Devils. Parrish led Central to a perfect 14-0 record in 2018 and was named the Class 7A state championship game’s MVP after running for 100 yards with a touchdown and throwing for 78 more yards with a touchdown in a 52-7 victory in the title game over Thompson High. Parrish was selected to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic and runs a 4.6 40.

“I really liked what I saw at LSU. I enjoyed being around Coach (Ed) Orgeron. He reminds me a lot of Coach (Jamey) DuBose here. Baton Rouge is a great place to be. LSU has a great system and I think I will fit in right away. I am a hard worker and I think that will help me when I get there,” Parrish said.

Parrish will enroll at LSU next summer.

Thornton liked the “family” atmosphere he found on his visit to Clemson right away.

“It is a big relief for this day to come. It has been a long process. I am going to my dream school. There is a great family environment. When I met Coach (Dabo) Swinney, I fell in love with him. He is such an upbeat guy,” Thornton said.

He also let the Clemson fans know his intentions for his freshman season.

“Tell them I will be ready to play. I am all in,” Thornton said.

Thornton has graduated already and is headed to Clemson to begin classes and join the team in January. He had 57 tackles and two interceptions this past season. He will join former teammate Justyn Ross with the Tigers. He and Ross are the first Phenix City players to sign with Clemson since Marvin Sims (1976-79). Sims played his high school football at Pacelli in Columbus.

Both football players said there was some last-minute activity to get them to flip to other schools, but both kept their word and signed with the schools they had committed to earlier. The two were among the 2018 Red Devils to help their school to its first undefeated and untied season since 1944,

Frank said she did not really go out and find Texas State’s track program. ”They found me,” she said.

Frank has been a member of the Class 7A state championship 4×400 relay team for each of the past three seasons. She has a chance to make it four-straight this spring. She also participates in several individual events including the 200 and 400 meter dashes. She runs the 4×100 and 4×400 relay events.

“I really do not know a lot about their campus and facilities. I will take a trip there this spring. I plan to run the same events there that I have been running here,” Frank said.