Parker’s Fox makes switch from soccer
It wasn’t all that long ago that Parker High wide receiver Jared Fox could be found running around a soccer field.
After giving football a shot in the Janesville Youth Football League, Fox settled on soccer at Edison middle school and as a Viking freshman. But Fox didn’t like the high school program’s direction, so he skipped sports during the fall season of his sophomore year.
When friends Riley Grafft (wide receiver) and Chris Gunn (center) kept talking up the Parker football program, Fox decided to give it a try.
Fox has quietly become a versatile weapon for the Vikings (6-3), who will open the 2007 WIAA playoffs with a 5 p.m. road game Tuesday night against Kenosha Bradford (7-2). The 6-foot, 165-pound senior has caught 23 passes for 471 yards and five touchdowns—the Vikings only have 53 receptions as a team—and he has rushed 26 times for 247 yards and six scores, nearly 10 yards per carry.
“Most of my friends wanted me to play football,” Fox said. “I approached Coach (Joe) Dye about it.”
Dye, who coached Fox in track, knew what kind of athleticism the speedster could bring to his team.
“You’re never going to turn athletes away,” Dye said. “We let kids make their choices and go from there. We weren’t disappointed the way it turned out.”
The Vikings still prefer to grind it out and play smash-mouth football, but Fox adds a complementary weapon to the offense that keeps defenses honest.
“Jared helps to level the playing field because we’re a tailback-oriented team,” Dye said. “We see a lot of defenses stacking eight and nine players in the box. If Jared’s not out there, we might see nine in the box on every play.”
Fox, a decent bowler who once rolled a 216 game, broke into the starting lineup as a junior and hasn’t looked back.
“What helped him last year was the fact that he was a support guy and wasn’t a guy playing the lead role,” Dye said. “That afforded him the luxury to learn the game. That took pressure off him. Jared had a chance to learn from guys like Matt McCulloch and Taylor Edwards. Now, Jared is one of our playmakers.”
Fox averages more than 14 yards every time he touches the ball on offense and has produced a touchdown about every five times the Vikings call his number.
“Coach Dyes likes to get the ball into the hands of people who can do something with it,” said Fox, who will have little down time this year when it comes to sports. He will follow football with another season of basketball, where he started for the Vikings as a guard last season. After basketball comes track. Fox, the son of Rebecca Fox, qualified for the WIAA state meet last spring in the long jump.
He’s also no slouch in the classroom where he carries a 3.2 average.
“Jared is as good a student as he is an athlete,” Dye said. “He is a good example of what a high school student-athlete should be. I think he’s just enjoying his time playing high school football.”
Fox’s transition to football didn’t come without a bump or two.
Dye recalls the Beloit game from 2006. On one of the first plays in which Fox got a chance to carry the football from out of the backfield, he coughed it up for a fumble. Dye called the same play later in the game and Fox produced a 17-yard gain.
“I’m biased, but Jared responds to challenges and adversity,” Dye said. “He’s a tremendous competitor. He doesn’t back down.”
Fox never imagined he’d become an impact player.
“I didn’t think I could come out as a junior and be a starter,” Fox said. “It was a good choice to pick football.”
Other choices loom for Fox.
“If Jared chooses to play football beyond high school, I think his best years are ahead of him,” Dye said. “There’s some interest in him from Division II schools. I think he’d be an impact player in the WIAC.”
For now, Fox is concentrating on the playoffs and what he hopes is an extended run by the Vikings, who could easily be 9-0.
“We would have loved to have a conference championship,” Fox said. “We’ve been in every game.
“Right now it’s all about who can come out there and play with the most heart.”