This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Two offensive linemen left Utah this January with a year of NCAA eligibility remaining.
One, Jeremiah Poutasi, is paid handsomely by the Tennessee Titans.
The other, Parker Erickson, shares an 800-square-foot basement apartment while recovering financially from the night his cross-country move was interrupted 30 miles shy of Washington by a busted radiator. Five months later, the rookie legislative correspondent at the D.C. office of Rep. Jason Chaffetz is still smarting from the $800 setback.
"Let's just say I don't eat out every night," he said.
Rent for the D.C. basement, split with a local law student, is $2,200. Chaffetz famously sleeps on a cot at the office, but Erickson quips that he and the boss aren't quite on bunkmate terms yet.
It's the cost of life inside the Beltway always a more likely destination for Erickson than the NFL.
Though brothers Brent and Preston played football through childhood, Erickson was, initially, a reluctant participant. He tried soccer instead, "but he scored on his own team, so that was enough of that," said his mother, Kay. He swam, but by high school, "he got too big for the swimsuit."
When Kay persuaded him to suit up at Alta, he'd make himself sick to miss practice, she said. "Parker was absolutely the worst player you've ever seen." And yet, of her three boys, "he was the one who made a Pac-12 team."
Erickson's attitude and aptitude obviously improved at some point. Even so, he was a more natural student than he was an athlete.
Erickson read Time, Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal in middle school. He'd later install a word-of-the-day app on his phone and use each in that day's conversation. As a high school junior, he said, he was booted from a U.S. history class for repeatedly correcting his teacher.
His family had moved nine times by the time he was 17, and he kept alive the wandering trend after graduation, attending Salt Lake Community College, redshirting as a Utah State walk-on, serving an LDS mission to Detroit and returning to play at Snow.
The summer between spring and fall semesters at Snow, Erickson was working part-time at Sports Authority when he came across a customer picking out basketball shoes and boxing gloves for his son.
The outgoing pair got to talking. Erickson told him he was thinking about walking onto the U.'s football team, and the man who received a coupon and a buy-one-get-one-half-off deal, Erickson notes told him to stop by his office on the first day of class.
The customer was Kirk Jowers, longtime director of the Hinckley Insitute of Politics, and "I didn't realize how big a deal he was until I was in his office and saw the pictures on the wall of him with presidents," Erickson said.
Jowers considers Erickson one of his all-time favorite students. He helped Erickson land an internship with the Senate Finance Committee "That's when he fell in love with D.C.," Kay said and become a finalist for Truman and Rhodes scholarships.
When Erickson was crushed to learn late last November that he wasn't one of 32 American students chosen to receive a free postgraduate education at Oxford, Jowers stepped in again.
A week earlier, Chaffetz had been voted chair of the powerful House Oversight Committee. He had dozens of positions to fill, and Jowers suggested Erickson. Former Utah baseball player and current Chaffetz chief of staff Fred Ferguson agreed he was a good fit.
Erickson had second thoughts. He could attend law school and earn playing time as a senior. His parents thought it wise to stay in school. But Jowers calls Chaffetz "one of the 10 members of Congress who really matter right now." It's a no-brainer, he told him.
When offensive line coach Jim Harding saw Erickson in the run-up to the Las Vegas Bowl, "He just looked at me like, 'Parker, are you all right?'"
He was, and he is or, at least, he made the right call, he said.
He oversees Chaffetz's constituent correspondence, sorting and responding to thousands of letters and emails. The office received more than 10,000 pieces of mail in January and February alone, he said.
Most have some sort of problem they want help solving, Chaffetz said by phone Friday. "We don't get a whole lot of, 'Hey, we just love you and wanted to let you know that, congressman.'"
The everyman quality of caring about football comes in handy, Erickson said. A former BYU placekicker, Chaffetz himself wonders how his life might've been different if his vice principal hadn't advised the skinny soccer player to try out for the football team.
He said of Erickson, Ferguson and committee communications coordinator Derrick Dockery, a 10-year NFL veteran: "They're punctual, they work hard, and they want to win."
Kay believes her son will run for office someday. Chaffetz said Erickson has been a quick study, and "it was clear at the beginning he has the intellectual capacity to go as far as he wants to go."
For now, though, Erickson is keeping his goals simple: Chaffetz has a signed football from Kyle Whittingham in his office, and Erickson has been hoping to add his own game-worn blackout helmet to further offset the BYU blue in the congressman's collection of memorabilia.
It'll happen, he said. Only, "it's a lot to carry on the metro."
Parker Erickson file
From • Born in Phoenix and lived in Montana and North Carolina before arriving in Utah around the turn of the millennium.
Family • Father has worked a variety of jobs, mom is a teacher. Has two brothers and a sister. Brother Preston played football at Utah State and Snow, while brother Brent played sprint football at West Point. Preston is currently a medical student at the U.
Before the U. • Attended SLCC before enrolling at Utah State, hoping to earn as many credits as possible so that he wouldn't fall behind non-Mormons on his LDS mission. His two years in Detroit "probably changed me more than anything else in my life," he said. Stunned by the abject poverty, he said he came to care more about improving quality of life than baptizing people, and he and a companion started a literacy program for children and their parents.
As a student • Maintained a 4.0 GPA and was a finalist for Truman and Rhodes scholarships. Hinckley Institute of Politics director Kirk Jowers said Erickson wasn't initially the writer he had thought he would be, but "he doesn't make the same mistake twice. By the end, he was easily one of the top 1 percent at the U. [at writing]. You don't often see students make that type of a leap."
As a legislative correspondent • In addition to overseeing Rep. Jason Chaffetz's correspondence, Erickson advises Chaffetz on education, women's issues, transportation and disease awareness, among other things. Yes, he said, he is aware of the irony of being a 6-foot-2, 290-pound offensive guard and women's issue specialist.