Culture / Sporting Life

Derek Parish’s Crazy Surgery Comeback Inspires His UH Teammates — Two Days Post Op, He’s Back Making Big Plays

Houston's Freak Will Not Even Consider Missing a Game

BY // 09.04.22

SAN ANTONIO — Derek Parish found himself on an operating table on Thursday morning, getting his broken hand fixed. On Saturday, he helped the University of Houston win a football game. And not just helped. Arguably made the biggest play of all.

Playing with his entire lower right arm encased in a restrictive black cast.

“He broke a small bone in his hand in (practice) warmups, pass rushing on a (running) back,” UH head coach Dana Holgorsen says. “Talk about freak injury hits. And he’s a freak. He’s an absolute freak. So he had surgery and put a cast on and played. So he’s like grappling with two fingers on the right side and five fingers on the left side.”

And the craziest thing about Derek Parish’s crazy surgery comeback is that almost none of his teammates are surprised by it. They already knew that Derek Parish is that dude.

“Everybody that’s been around Derek Parish knows the type of guy that Derek Parish is,” defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser says when I ask him about Parish playing two days post surgery. “Derek Parish is a soldier. He has a brother who I’m not sure if he’s in the Army or the Marines, but. . .

“He had surgery like two days ago. But everybody knew that Derick Parish was going to play.”

Parish didn’t officially start, but he still played a lot in defensive coordinator Doug Belk‘s defensive line rotation. UTSA quarterback Frank Harris will certainly remember Derek Parish. Even after having a career day against Houston’s defense (accounting for 400 yards and four touchdowns himself).

For Parish is the one who breaks in on Harris and hits the quarterback as he throws, leading to a fluttering pass that looks like a doomed paper airplane. One that Ceaser plucks out of the air for the interception that starts UH’s comeback from a 21-7 deficit. Without that Derek Parish play, there’s no 37-35 triple overtime Houston win.

No 1-0 record. No season of super expectations still on track.

Yes, UH is very thankful that Derek Parish is a little crazy. Make that more than a little. Surgery on Thursday. In the lineup on Saturday.

UH quarterback Clayton Tune just smiles when I bring up this sequence. Parish is Tune’s old roommate. The quarterback knows how obsessed that dude is.

Still, two days post surgery — and there’s still no doubt?

“It just goes back to the character of our team,” Tune says. “There’s no quit in us. We kind of have that dog mentality. I know that Derek’s like that because I lived with him for two years earlier in our college careers. I’ve known what Derek’s been about ever since I’ve been here.

“I had no question that he was going to play.”

The University of Houston football team, led by head coach Dana Holgersen, held practice in their bubble.
Derek Parish (center) is one of the more unique and interesting players in all of college football. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Derek Parish was not made available to the media postgame despite a request. But his teammates were excited to spread his story. It’s the type of story that mini college football legends are made of. Even if many seemed to miss it amidst Clayton Tune’s heroics, Nathaniel Dell’s touchdown making and UH’s ultimate survival.

But the guy in the black cast is still hunting the quarterback, still producing big plays, still being there for his teammates.

“He had surgery like two days ago. But everybody knew that Derick Parish was going to play.” — UH defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser

Parish will certainly need to wear the cast in this Saturday’s game at Texas Tech — an emotional rematch of its own for these now 1-0 Cougars. But he should be able to shed it before the season’s over.

“It’s temporary,” Holgorsen says of the cast.

Not that it really matters. “He’s going to play no matter what.” Holgorsen admits.

That is just how Derek Parish approaches football. Or anything he’s this committed to for that matter. Parish made longtime college football writer Bruce Feldman’s Freaks List for being able to power clean 426 pounds and run a 4.58 second 40-yard dash. Well that and being able to eat 110 ounces of steak in one sitting.

There is no doubt that Parish brings unique physical gifts and a tools combination that few other defensive linemen in college football possess. But it’s his heart that his teammates get the biggest kick — and lift — out of.

Playing with one good hand? Derek Parish can do that. Of course, Derek Parish will do that.

Two days off the operating table and back to making big plays? Derek Parish’s teammates never had a doubt.