Lance Parker has been a goalkeeper forever. He knows how to block a corner kick.
In his fourth game for Edmonton FC, he jumps up and lunges to punch the ball out of the box. He knows he is going to get hit.
Two players on the other team slam into him at the peak of his jump, flipping him upside down. Instead of breaking his neck, Parker sticks out his arm for a “superman dive.”
His bone shatters. Blood and bone poke out of the back of his arm. The surgeon tells his parents he won’t play soccer again.
The Early Years (Falling in Love)
Parker, a Missouri State alumnus turned professional soccer player and model, knew he wanted to play soccer for the rest of his life at age 12–when he saw David Beckham.
“I was lucky enough to play on a team that traveled over to England and played in a tournament there,” Parker said. “Being over there in that atmosphere and seeing the culture that they had there, I absolutely fell in love with the game.”
He said everything he did from that moment on was geared toward his end goal: playing professional soccer.
Parker came to Missouri State from Oklahoma City on athletic and academic scholarships which paid his way through school.
Early morning runs with his teammates weren’t fun but were worthwhile.
“They’re miserable, but they make the bond between you and your teammates so much stronger,” Parker said.
Parker’s teammate Alex Riggs shared a special bond with him: an 8 a.m. ballet class.
“I look at Lance and I go ‘what?’” Riggs said. “We go to the store, buy ourselves some ballet shoes and there we are, scared as can be.”
Riggs said he got a B in the class, Parker got an A.
Head men’s soccer coach Jon Leamy said Parker would show him magic tricks.
“He’s really a multi-faceted guy,” Leamy said. “He loves to travel and see National Parks but he’s great with magic. He can do magic tricks. Sometimes we were sitting on the bus and I’d be like show me how you do this, ‘Show me a cool trick.’”
Parker graduated with a general business degree in 2007. Riggs followed graduating in 2011 with the same degree.
“They share the same stuff, they went through the same things together, the same commitment to try and be excellent. They share this bond,” Leamy said about the team.
A Lifelong Dream
It would be an understatement to say that Parker was happy when he signed his first professional soccer contract with the MLS team Chivas.
Unlike some pro players, he didn’t get drafted. During his college summers, Parker played in a semi-pro league. Between his junior and senior years, he trained for a week with the Colorado Rapids.
The goalkeeper coach there liked him enough to stay in touch. After graduating, Parker went to preseason with Chivas. They liked him enough to give him a contract.
“It was like ‘oh my God,’ all of that hard work for years and years and years finally paid off,” Parker said.
While in Los Angeles with Chivas, he played against David Beckham–his childhood hero. Parker blocked a couple of Beckham’s free kicks, which Beckham is famous for, but was scored on and lost the game 1-0.
“If I’m going to brag about being scored on by anybody, I’m happy to say that’s him,” Parker said. “I was like ‘wow I watched this guy play when I was a kid and now I’m playing against him.’ He scored on me but I also blocked some of his free kicks too, so I’m pretty pumped about that.”
After playing with Chivas for two years, he played for Miami FC and then moved to Canada to play for FC Edmonton for the rest of his career.
Playing soccer for as long as he did took a toll on his body.
The worst injury was when he broke his arm, shattering the bone into over 30 pieces. Luckily for Parker, he didn’t hear his doctor say he’d never play again.
That’s exactly what he did.
“I did a 10-month rehab,” Parker said. “I played next season and had another surgery after that to take the metal out and played after that and had best year of my career.”
Parker retired from soccer about a year ago, partially because of all the injuries he had. He said he lost the passion for the game.
“I still enjoyed playing it, but there wasn’t that fire inside of me that drove me,” Parker said. “Something was lacking.”
‘Nice Legs’: a Model Entrepreneur
There’s two sides to the professional athlete: one that he kept secret for years.
Parker said an older woman was ogling him at the airport while he was traveling with Chivas. He was wearing his team track suit and had the legs rolled up because it was hot.
“She goes ‘Hey, you have some really nice legs,’” Parker said. “And I was just like taken back like ‘Thank you; thanks creepy lady.’”
The woman ended up helping Parker launch his modeling
career by putting him in contact with someone else.
For the first three years, only his mom and dad knew he was a model.
“I didn’t want my coaches to have an excuse — like if I had a bad practice or a bad week, I didn’t want them to have the excuse of your head’s in this modeling; you’re not focused on soccer,” Parker said. “So I didn’t want them to have that ammo.”
He couldn’t keep his Edmonton teammates from finding out though. When he showed up for the first time, they put up poster-size pictures of him modeling around the locker room.
“But at that point my career as a model was pretty stabilized, so it was fine that people knew I had these two different careers, but soccer always came first,” Parker said. “So if there was ever a conflict, it was always going to be soccer.”
Parker’s been on the cover of several magazines and recently did a photo shoot with Nautica.
His modeling career has led him to dip into acting. He’s only taken a couple classes so far but thinks commercial acting is what he’ll start out with.
During his last year playing soccer, Parker grew interested in health and fitness. He moved to New York and got certified as a health coach and personal trainer.
He grew his client base and then was invited to be the chief programming officer at fitness boutique studio in New York.
April 21-23 was the MSU men’s soccer Alumni Weekend. For the first time in 10 years, Parker was able to go.
He told the current players about his journey as a professional soccer player, model and starting his own business.
He has nicknames include “pretty boy,” as Leamy called him jokingly at the luncheon. Leamy said it was neat to see all the different generations together during Alumni Weekend.
“Be open minded about things that come your way,” Parker said. “If your views and your passions change, don’t fight against it. Don’t be scared to let your ideas change because you never know where life will take you.”