ANDERSON TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Before Ross Parrish steps foot onto the Charles L. Brown Stadium field this fall, he will lovingly tap a family photo.
The simple snapshot is at eye level inside his orange locker, proudly centered above his football helmet, gloves and other gear belonging to the Anderson senior wide receiver.
Ross, his mother, Michelle, and his late father, Brian Parrish, are grinning in the 2017 photo. It's a significant reminder of Brian, who represented so much as a father to Ross and his 16-year-old brother, Jake, and as a longtime husband to Michelle.
Football bonded Brian and Ross Parrish. That link is still present in the locker room. Ross touches the photo before boarding a bus to road games, too.
“I would say it’s an extra motivational factor just to know everything I am doing -- I am just trying to make him happy,” Ross said.
Brian Parrish died June 6, 2018, after a nearly yearlong battle with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. He was 46 years old.
“I was very close with him,” Ross said. “He was someone I could relate to, probably the most in my family and the world.”
Like Ross, Brian Parrish played high school football – as an offensive tackle at Sycamore in the 1980s. That’s where he met Michelle; they both graduated in 1990.
The couple knew each other for 30 years, including 23 years of marriage. They moved to Anderson Township in 2001 when Michelle Parrish was pregnant with Ross.
“Ross is very much like his father,” she said. “He was very driven academically. He was always putting 100 percent on the field. He just wanted to be the best he could be all the time. And he was a lot of fun and funny. So Ross has that good, sarcastic dry sense of humor. A lot of people who knew Brian said, ‘Oh my gosh, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree.’”
Ross, 17, had a 4.42 grade-point average this past spring and scored a 33 on his ACT. He’s one of the area’s top players in the 2020 class, with scholarship offers or opportunities from Indiana, Akron and Ivy League programs during the college recruiting process.
“Ross Parrish is a once-in-a-lifetime student-athlete,” Anderson coach Evan Dreyer said. “What he’s been through and what he does on our football field – not in statistics but in overall effort, intelligence, character, caring about others and caring about our freshmen. Those are all things that people don’t see, but every coach wants to have a guy on his football team that can do all those things. And that’s what makes our team go.”
Besides football practice and taking college visits this summer, Ross generally works two days a week at the Graeter’s store on Beechmont Avenue to earn spending money. Ross, who is 6 feet 4 and 225 pounds, often works the drive-thru and wears a headset helping his colleagues with the orders. Buckeye Blitz is his favorite flavor.
“I think once he’s there it’s kind of a fun release,” Michelle Parrish said. “You are dealing with ice cream and kids and families. He gets to sample a lot and bring home some stuff.”
Even if he works the late shift and closes at midnight, Ross sets an alarm to wake up by 6:20 a.m. in order to meet a challenge of being on the practice field at 7 a.m.
He has yet to oversleep. Anderson football is too important. The Redskins (9-4) will open the season at Simon Kenton on Aug. 30.
“Every practice it feels like you are just taking it in with all your friends and thinking about how some guys will have to hang up the helmet,” he said. “Some guys will get to play at the next level. But you are just really just enjoying the moment – every morning, every practice. And you know that this upcoming season could be the last 10 games you play together. So you really try to put everything you got into it and get the most out of the season.”
He will play in college – it’s just a matter of where. He returned last week with his mother from visits to Yale, Harvard and Columbia.
“I learned that it wasn’t all the bow tie and chess players that you think,” he said. “There are some good guys on campus. I got to meet some of the players and the coaches. It really felt like home at a couple of spots. It was really a great experience.”
Yes, football is important, but academics are the priority. He’s interested in applied sciences with a specific focus on the environment.
He has been known to pick up trash in his neighborhood or on the beach when he’s on vacation. He tries to recycle as much as possible. He also takes special care of animals when given the opportunity. A few weeks ago, he managed to rescue a bunny that hobbled into a sewer one night. He also helped to release a frog that had been in the family laundry room.
“I feel good when I help the environment in some way, and I really think there is a climate issue going on in the future,” he said. “So if I can help that I see no reason that I shouldn’t do everything I can about it.”
Dreyer believes Parrish’s maturity, intelligence and care for others will make him very successful in the future.
“I think that’s what makes him so great,” Dreyer said. “I think he is able to lead people. And I think he is going to be a CEO after whatever school he picks in industrial management. And I think that’s exciting.”
Although Ross has been driven in the classroom since elementary school, Brian and Michelle Parrish didn’t envision a number of years ago that their eldest son would consider Ivy League schools. Now, that is a reality.
Somewhere, Brian Parrish is certainly smiling.
“I think he would be absolutely blown away by this opportunity and just so proud,” Michelle Parrish said. “He would’ve loved to see all this.”