Donald is a large dude. Like, really. He’s a true 6’8. Not 6’7 and some change. Not 6’6 plus the inch you get from cleats, a true 6’8.
So now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the Lakeland, Florida native and how he went from being a one-year player in high school to being the best tight end in the short-lived 2020 XFL season.
Parham’s first season playing football was as a senior at Lake Gibson High School. In that lone season, he recorded just 13 catches for 234 yards for four touchdowns while playing wide receiver. That small sample sized, coupled with his obvious potential, helped him land at local Stetson University.
After playing in four games his freshman year (no stats), Parham earned his first taste of starting time the following season with six starts in 11 games played as a sophomore. He finished with 37 catchesm 455 yards and six touchdowns.
In his junior and senior seasons, Parham continued to progress and improved on his numbers with each year that came. In 2017, he earned All-Pioneer Football League honors with a 58-817-1 receiving line. As a senior, Parham really took things to another level.
In just eight starts - he missed two to injury - Parham recorded a career-best 85 catches for a whopping 1,319 yards with a remarkable 13 touchdowns. His peak single-game performance was a 12-catch, 257-yard outing where he found the end zone twice.
After earning consensus All-American honors, he was invited to the NFLPA Bowl where he parlayed another strong performance into an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, he missed out on participating in the game due to another injury.
After going undrafted in 2019, Parham signed with the Detroit Lions as an undrafted free agent. He was waived just a few weeks later on May 12 before signing with Washington. After being waived, re-signed, and waived once more, Parham ended up getting drafted in the ninth round of the 2020 XFL draft by the Dallas Renegades.
Through the five games played before the league collapsed, Parham recorded 24 catches for 307 yards and four touchdowns. Those marks were among the best for all pass-catchers and it helped land Parham back in the NFL, signing with the Chargers on April 14.
College: Stetson (FL)
Experience: 1 (XFL)
Years with team: 0
“Donald Parham signed a 2 year, $1,390,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $695,000.” - Spotrac.com
You can’t coach 6’8, so that’s the biggest thing Parham has going for him. In just a handful of games in the XFL, Parham recorded a 100-yard, two touchdown performance while finishing the abbreviated season as a top-5 pass-catcher in receiving yards and touchdowns.
His catches weren’t all due to his height, either. Parham showed the ability to create enough separation, especially on catch and run for a touchdown that went well over 60+ yards. If he continues to add more mass and functional strength, he’ll be a viable red zone threat, which is certainly a viable role on a team that needs to finish drives at a higher rate after last season.
Parham hasn’t played a down of NFL football yet and he wasn’t able to stick with either of the first two teams to sign him in 2019. He was never pegged as a potential impact player from the jump and that may have caused teams to shy away from what they may have deemed as too large of a project to take on.
He also offers almost zero in the run game as his height becomes a burden when trying to win the leverage battle, especially against undersized edge rushers.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
After the release of UDFA Jared Rice and Andrew Vollert, Parham’s biggest competition is now Stephen Anderson. Anderson has a handful of years under his belt with the Texans, including some starting experience, but he’s a vastly different tight end at just 6’3. There is certainly a chance that Parham gets beaten out, but giving up on a player like Parham before seeing him in a game just doesn’t sit right with me. There’s a chance the Chargers feel the same way.