Derek Parish, ‘the standard’ of the Houston Cougars defense

Houston Cougars defensive lineman Derek Parish recorded 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and 11 total tackles against Texas Tech. (Courtesy Houston Athletics)

Derek Parish, ‘the standard’ of the Houston Cougars defense

Houston Cougars defensive lineman Derek Parish had Texas Tech offensive linemen seeing No. 0 for days after Saturday’s record-breaking performance.

“Agent Zero” as he is referred to by his teammates accumulated 4.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss and 11 total tackles in the loss against Texas Tech. He was named the American Athletic Conference defensive player of the week, breaking several conference records, and also received Nagurski national defensive player of the week.

“He just plays with relentless effort,” Houston defensive coordinator Doug Belk said. “He is one of the guys who is the standard in the defensive unit just the way he plays, the way he approaches the game.”

Parish was only nine days removed from having surgery on his right ring finger when he was wreaking havoc on the Red Raiders. He was just two days removed from surgery when he played against UTSA in the season opener.

The Pearland native has played the first two games of the 2022 season with a cast on the hand that greatly limits his ability to grip when fighting upfront against opposing linemen. However, the cast has not stopped him from making plays.

Against the Roadrunners, Parish rushed the quarterback and forced a pass attempt to pop into the air and get intercepted by fellow defensive lineman Nelson Ceaser that set Houston up for the game-tying score.

For Belk, playing through the injury just adds to the lore of Parish.

“His mental toughness allows him to do things that a lot of other people can’t do, and I think that is what separates him from a lot of the other guys,” Belk said.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen said Parish’s performance was the most dominant he had ever seen from a defensive player. A compliment that brought a tear to Parish’s eye, he said. Parish, who comes from a military family, said he enjoys it when his higher ups have been impressed.

Holgorsen said despite the dominance, he overheard Parish speaking with a coach about how he was frustrated he slipped on the final play of the game because he believed he could have made a move that stopped Texas Tech quarterback Donovan Smith from running for the nine-yard touchdown that won the game.

“Dude had four and a half sacks, 100 (tackles for loss) or whatever it is, and he is mad he did not make the last play,” Holgorsen said. “Let’s get more guys like that, that have that attitude and mentality and grit and hard work and determination. It is amazing.”

Belk believes Parish benefits from competing with his fellow defensive lineman during practice. The group, which became known as “Sack Ave” during the 2021 season for its ability to get to opposing quarterbacks, holds a special place in Parish’s heart as well.

“We feed off each other,” Parish said. “Say (D’Anthony Jones) makes a play, (Ceaser) makes a play, I’m going to be as happy as they are for me if I make a play. Just seeing the guy you work so hard next, you go through the same stuff every day, you want to see them succeed just like they do with you. I think that is something special. I think you can’t beat that.”

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