In an abbreviated 2020 XFL season, Donald Parham Jr. was among the league's dominant players.
In five games with the Dallas Renegades, the 6-foot-8, 260-pound tight end was tied for fourth in receptions (24), second in targets (43), third in receiving yards (307) and tied for second in touchdowns (4). After a couple of stints on NFL practice squads in 2019, Parham Jr. is back in the league looking to recreate some of that XFL magic with the Chargers.
"It definitely set me up with the confidence to play with higher-level guys," he said of the XFL. "Especially because a lot of the people in the XFL were either ex-NFL players or a lot of guys from bigger schools that didn't quite get the opportunity, but they got that opportunity."
Parham Jr. played college football at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. – an enrollment of just over 4,000 students. In 30 games, he finished his career as the school's all-time leader in catches (180), receiving yards (2,591), and receiving touchdowns (20). Those eye-popping stats earned him an invite to the 2019 Senior Bowl.
"I was really surprised Donald didn't get drafted a couple of years ago just because he has rare traits," Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy said. "When you're a scout, you're always looking for things that differentiate you from other players."
Nagy said that Parham Jr. has the wingspan of someone who is approximately 7 foot 1 coupled with a 36-inch vertical jump. That makes for what he called a "rare" and "unusual" catch radius.
Hunter Henry praised Parham Jr. last week for his play so far in training camp, adding that "he has a lot of talent" and "can move really well, too, for how big he is." That encouragement from the Chargers starting tight end hasn't gone unnoticed.
"Hunter Henry's definitely been a great mentor to me," Parham Jr. said. "He's always keeping me uplifted during practice and making sure that I get it in my head that I can do this. He's definitely helped me along the way throughout this whole camp experience."
At 23, Parham Jr.'s early football journey has been filled twists and turns. When asked if he ever thinks about the trajectory of his career and where it can go, he quickly responded.
"Yes, I absolutely do," he said. "Because I never want to plateau. I always want to keep on the steady increase in terms of leveling up my game as well as my career. So, I'm definitely focused on not stepping back, but always taking a step forward."