Former Lufkin standouts inspiring next generation of Panthers

Former Lufkin standouts inspiring next generation of Panthers
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Ju Parks and Jacoby Ashworth made a name for themselves under the bright lights of Abe Martin Stadium. Now the pair is making a name for themselves again but this time it is in the hall ways of Brookhollow Elementary.

The college standouts are now teaching in the special education department of the school. They spend their days now with young students trying to inspire them to be great.

"It is about teaching them life lessons and social skills," Ashworth said.

The pair did not play together. Ashworth watched from the stands as Parks and other great Panthers won the 2001 UIL 5A State Championship in Houston when they defeated Austin Westlake 38-24.

Parks would go off to Texas A&M on a full ride. Six years later, Ashworth would get a full ride scholarship to the University of Houston.

The football talent was noticeable but Head Coach Todd Quick noticed something else.

"Both of those two were very unselfish players," Quick said. "To be able to do that and be in that field you have to be unselfish person. It doesn't surprise us that that's what they've done. "

The love for helping special needs children stared early on for the two men.

"My mom has been out at the state school for a while now," Ashworth said. "I would go out there and over the years grew to like working with kids with special needs."

Parks is working at the school as a paraprofessional but comes to the school from a similar place as Ashworth. Parks said working with the students brings a lot of positive feelings.

"I can really tell that we are  making a difference in their lives," Parks said. "I think it is something that they need, a good positive male role model."

Both men would like to take all the credit for being where they are today but could not take the credit without mentioning their coach John Outlaw.

"He was about building character," Parks said. "You know not only getting in the classroom and doing what you are supposed to do or getting on that filed and doing what you are supposed to do. [It's about] being a good person."

Parks will always remember his teammates and friends he has made from the 2001 state championship, but he values the smiles of the children he helps more than the title.

"Winning state, it was a great thing but I think the greatest thing of all is able to touch others," Parks said.

Quick said he is not surprised and it is one of the things that Outlaw and him tried to teach both of the men.

"We are not here to make great football players," Quick said. "We are here to make great adults that contribute to society."

While it may not have been their original plan the two hope they can use their past to inspire the next generation of panthers.

"It's a real good deal for them to see guys like me and Ju coming back and working with them," Ashworth said. "You can see the joy in their face when they talk to us."

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