Parker Shaunfield is one of the stars of the Southern Miss football team but when he walks around campus, nobody knows him.
“Maybe if I have a football shirt on,” he said. “But if I don’t have a football shirt on, I doubt it. Nobody ever picks me out and says anything.”
Maybe that’s because the redshirt junior from Aledo, Texas, only weighs 170 pounds. Only two Golden Eagles are lighter than that. Maybe it’s because he’s an engineering major. Maybe it’s because he has earned as many academic honors as athletic ones in high school and college. Maybe it’s because of the long blond hair.
“The hair might tip them off — but not really,” he said.
But here’s what makes Shaunfield a star:
He has kicked nine straight field goals and has made 11 of the 13 he’s tried this season.
He kicked four field goals in a double overtime win over Louisiana Tech, including a key 49-yarder late in the game.
And he kicked 87 consecutive extra points before a recent miss.
“Everybody loves Parker,” defensive lineman Darian Yancey said.
Well, everybody on the football team and all of its fans, for sure.
That’s what happens when you make 25 of your 32 career field-goal attempts and hardly ever miss an extra point.
Shaunfield doesn’t take all the credit.
“It’s a big operation, more than just me kicking,” he said. “The guys blocking, Collin (Mills) having a good snap, Reid (Rials) hitting his spot and holding it high like I like it. Then it’s on me to kick it through.”
Shaunfield was something of a late bloomer. He played soccer during his teenage years and became a kicker and wide receiver on his middle school football team.
He didn’t play varsity football until halfway through his junior season, then only to kick off. But he kept improving and kicked 16 out of 17 field goals at Aledo (Texas) High School and caught the attention of the Southern Miss coaching staff.
“I realized I was getting stronger and better at kicking and there’d be a chance, but I never thought there would be a chance for me to go to D-I and be this successful,” Shaunfield said.
But he did, and the competition at USM made him ever better.
“Two years ago, I was fighting with Stephen Brauchle for the starting job,” he said. “That really helped me become what I am, made me more consistent, having to compete against somebody who was a great kicker.”
Shaunfield got into action when Brauchle was hurt, and that’s when the extra-point streak started. Then it got longer and longer.
“My grandma was keeping up with it,” he said.
Shaunfield rates two games as his favorites, USM’s 44-35 win over Kentucky in 2016 and this season’s 34-27 double-overtime victory over Louisiana Tech.
In the Kentucky game, Shaunfield kicked five PATs and three field goals, from 31, 49 and 25 yards out. The 49 and 25 came in the fourth quarter and helped USM come from behind to take the win at Lexington, Ky.
Against Louisiana Tech, he kicked two extra points and had field goals from 34, 26 and 49 yards. The 49 came with 1:23 left in regulation and tied the game.
“I didn’t know it was 49 yards,” Shaunfield said. “I just knew we needed some points and went out there and just tried to put it through.”
The Golden Eagles swarmed their kicker with the flowing mane after that one and went on to take the win in double overtime.
Ironically, while fans at games and viewers on television see the long hair coming out from his helmet, the students on campus don’t see that.
“It’s always in a man bun pretty much all the time,” he said. “The only time I have it down is when I have a hat on or have my helmet on.”
Shaunfield said his sister is the reason his hair is so long.
“My sister got engaged two years ago and she was getting married,” he said. “My hair was not this long but it was getting longer. She made a bet with me that if I could get it into a man bun for her wedding that she wouldn’t make me cut it. I accepted the challenge and kept it going since then.
“Some of the guys like it. They told me not to cut it. Some of the guys keep telling me to get corn rows. I told them maybe for the bowl game I’ll consider it. We’ll have to see.”
That’s thinking positive, like kickers need to do. The Golden Eagles (5-4) actually need one more win — they play at Rice (1-8) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday — to become bowl eligible.
If they do, and if Shaunfield keeps kicking that football through the uprights, he might eventually become better known on the Hattiesburg campus. And in a lot of other football communities, too.
And not only, as Yancey said, because “Parker’s a good dude.”
Who: Southern Miss vs. Rice
When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
Radio: WBUV 104.9 FM