The legacy you leave behind


Racheal Sizemore

These flowers are located under former Leonard Park’s locker.

Story by Colton Johnson, Editor in Chief

There are three kinds of people in this world. People who walk into a room and sink into the shadows. People who walk into a room who demand the beaming spotlight. And people like Leonard Parks, who walk into a room with a gentle glow that overpowered the darkness.  

Senior Leonard Parks died, Sept. 2 in his sleep, leaving a void in the hearts of an entire community of family, friends and teammates.

“I remember watching Leonard walk down the hall. He was beautiful, and you could tell he was someone destined for an athletic career,” College Prep teacher, Jenny Walker said. “When he came into my class he always had this sweet little smile. Even though he was this giant presence in my room, he was never one to just demand all the attention. I always respected how gentle his presence was. He wanted to go to the NFL and he wanted to take care of his momma, and even as a junior he had such a good idea about where he was headed in life.”

Leonard’s character and spirit were with him and remained consistent throughout his life. Every moment he lived was toward bettering his future and fulfilling the dreams he had for himself.

“Leonard was one of my students at TMS. What really struck me about Leonard was how sweet he was. He was a friend to everyone, and he always tried very hard on everything that he did,” his former English teacher Shae Phillips said. “We were so proud of him. He had such a bright future ahead of him, and it’s just tragic that we lost him so young.”

Leonard’s heart beat for those around him. He was a light to others, and his encouraging and uplifting personality shown through in the love and support he gave to his friends in school, as well as his teammates on the field.

“Leonard was a guy who when he walked into a room, he lit up the room. Not just because of his size and his stature, but how he treated people,” head football coach, Gerry Stanford said. “I think he was known most for how he treated and loved other people. He always wanted to make sure that other people were taken care of.”

That care he offered freely to those around him will forever be etched into the hearts he touched. He was a leader on and off the field to brothers he played with; the example he set inspired the team to strive for greatness.

“Leonard was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met in my life. He never skipped a rep or gave up on a play. He played till the whistle and went above and beyond in everything he did,” senior and fellow teammate Josh Lanier said. “He never once complained about it being too difficult to be accomplished, he just pushed through because he loved his team and wanted to lead us through anything. He played because of his love of the game and love of his teammates. He always was there for us.”

He was doing what he loved most the night before he passed; he was on the field, playing his heart out. That same passion resonates with the rest of the team as they continue to hold onto his memory and his legacy.

“He was a good athlete, a good person,” junior and fellow teammate Seth Willis said. “We are going to finish this season for Leonard. Our motto right now is: What would six do? What would Leonard do? Would he give up, or would he keep playing? Leonard went out there and gave 100 percent. Friday was one of the best games. I watched it over and over again. I respect him. I really am gonna miss him. He’s a true friend.”

His passion and talent for the game had already caught the eye of college recruiters. Leonard received six college offers to play football, but his heart was set on Southern Methodist University.

“The entire SMU football family is saddened by the passing of Leonard Parks. Leonard had come to our camp and we had been recruiting him for quite some time. Many of our coaches had developed strong relationships with Leonard, and we considered him one of our own,” SMU head coach Chad Morris said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Leonard’s family, his coach Gerry Stanford, his teammates and everyone who was close to him. Leonard and his family will forever be a part of our StangGang18 class.”

Leonard cared about the game, and he cared about his future. He took every opportunity he could to better himself.

“The only time he ever got in trouble is when he would be watching his highlights. He would come in and lead me to believe that he was doing some kind of research, but he would be back there just watching his clips,” Walker said. “His punishment was having to hear me give him advice on how to improve his athletic abilities. He would just laugh at me and say ‘yes ma’am Mrs. Walker.’ I just think he is one of those kids you adore and you just wish that everything in the world would’ve fallen into place for him.”

Leonard was described as being a light. A gentle glow in a night sky. He is a symbol for us to look to and model ourselves after. He loved deeply. He cared, and he impacted the lives of those who surrounded him.

“Leonard was one of the most amazing people the Lord ever put in my life,” senior Khyla Lewis said. “Even though it was for a short time, the moments I got to spend with him are always going to have an impact on me.”

It is the moments that people spent with him that must be remembered. His smile. His light. He lived fully, and he held onto his passions. He was a hero, and he taught people to be confident in themselves and pushed them to be better. Leonard left a legacy for his family, for his friends, for his teammates, for us all. Keep his memory alive.

“The most important thing is the legacy you leave behind. In his loss, we can honor his memory by reflecting in ourselves the positive attributes he shared with us. Joy, patience and kindness are just a few. His humor would light up a room. No task assigned to him was ever rejected. He stepped up,” his former english teacher Michele Rigdon said. “We can learn by the example I shared with many people in my tribute to him. That like an Anglo Saxon epic hero, we all can leave behind a legacy that will live in the hearts and minds of others indefinitely. If you asked Leonard what kind of hero he wanted to be, he said ‘I am a hero. In a sense, I am the rescuer.’ When asked to define his life in three words he said ‘In beast mode.’ So, in honor of him I think if we are going to honor his legacy, we need to act selflessly on behalf of others in the way that he suggests: Being all in.”

The funeral service will be held Saturday at House of Refuge located at 1707 West 6th street. There is a GoFund me account to raise money to cover expenses for the family.

Photo by Rachel Sizemore