Willamette’s football team is switching things up by hiring two new coaches for the upcoming season. Buster Davis, an ex-NFL player, is the new defensive coordinator and Isaac Parker is the new head coach. Davis competed at Florida State University from 2002-2006 and was named First Team All-American and All-Atlantic Coast in his senior year. Athletic Director Rob Passage is hopeful the new coaches have the ability to create a positive impact on campus.
When searching for coaches, Passage said, “It goes far past just wins and losses. While the outside world sees numbers on a scoreboard, we are all judged on our daily commitment to the mission of the university, our department and our student-athletes.”
Parker, an ‘02 WU alum, quickly rose to the top of the interview list because of the reasons listed by Passage. Parker has been an offensive coordinator for Lewis & Clark College. When asked what this homecoming means to Parker, he said, “This place is very special to me, personally, and the coaches were special as well, so the opportunity to provide a similar experience is really exciting to me.”
Part of Parker’s student experience was being involved in more than just football. Parker was a member of Greek life, Lu’au and the leadership of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), giving him a diverse experience at Willamette. These unique experiences, of not only being a student-athlete, but also being active in so many other organizations gives Parker an exclusive background that allows him to help students.
It has been a long journey from student-athlete to head coach. He said, “A big part of attraction in coaching is very much so from experience as a student-athlete. Not as much fun as playing, but better than video games. Wouldn’t say I’ve always seen myself wanting to be a coach, but once I caught the bug, I did want to be a head coach. It’s important to be prepared for opportunities before they show up. It’s better to be prepared and not have an opportunity than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”
Parker’s coaching methods focus around keeping things simple and focusing on what can be controlled in the game. This theme of creating a healthy team culture and being part of the greater Willamette and Salem community is also how Davis and Parker connected so well.
According to Parker’s interview with Robert McKinney, WU’s Athletics Communications Director, Parker said, “Buster and I each had the opportunity to go to the NCAA-NFL Coaches Academy in Tampa, FL, in 2017, and we immediately connected during our weekend there… Through the interview process, it was clear that our coaching chemistry would be great and that he will be an incredible mentor and motivator for our student-athletes. I believe that Buster will have a significant impact on our program, school, campus and Salem community, and I feel so blessed that he’s excited to be a part of it!”
While WU’s football team has has its challenges in the past, it seems as though the coaching staff and the athletic director are looking forward to some great seasons to come on and off the field.