Brother, father help set all-star’s foundation

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When Isaac Parra dons the orange and blue of Los Lunas High School for the last time at the Class 4A/5A All-Star Football Classic in Albuquerque, his feelings will be running high and low at the same time.

Kenn Rodriguez-News-Bulletin photo: LOS LUNAS HIGH standout Isaac Parra, left, with his father Michael, center, and older brother, J.P. Issac will play in the Class 4A/5A Football All-Star Classic next Wednesday in Albuquerque.

“It’s mixed emotions,” Parra said, sitting upright in the living room of his home in Los Lunas. “It’s my last high school game in football but moving on to college to play is a next level thing. It’s good and bad at the same time.”

Parra is one of four Los Lunas High all-stars playing Wednesday night, along with Greg Wortman, Preston Schollander and Chris Wisneski. Parra said it was a great way to go out for him and his teammates.

“All of us going have all been playing since we were little,” he said. “We put in a lot of work so now it finally pays off to play on a big stage like that. It’s nice.”

It could also be the last organized football game Parra plays, as he moves on to play junior college baseball at the new Mexico Military Institute in Roswell, not football or wrestling — the other two sports he excelled at during his time at LLHS.

Parra’s athletic resume is impressive, to say the least. In wrestling, he owns a state championship at 160 pounds, won when he was a sophomore as well as runner-up medal at 190 his senior year and a third-place medal at 170 pounds in his junior year. He was a district champion all three years as well in the sports.

In football, Parra was a defensive captain and major part of the Tiger team that went 30-7 over the last three seasons and made it all the way to the state championship game in 2012, garnering the red runner-up trophy. In baseball, Parra was a major part of LLHS’ run into the state tournament this past May as one of the team’s top pitchers.

Through it all, Parra had his older brother, J.P., and father, Michael, who raised the two brothers alone after their mother, Beverly, died in a car accident in 2004.

The tragedy was a huge blow to the family, with J.P., age 12 going on 13, and Isaac just 9. Michael, now retired from law enforcement but then still working in Bernalillo County, said he’d seen a lot of similar tragedies on the job. Having it hit home was worse than he imagined. But it brought the family closer together.

“These guys had to grow up,” Michael said. “It was hard. Situations like that, some kids go by the wayside. But I had to get my hand in it and keep them going, and I did it through school and sports and kept them focused.”

The tragedy also gave J.P., who also excelled in three sports before choosing baseball when he arrived at Los Lunas High School as a junior, a sense of purpose when it came to his younger brother.

“I felt a lot more responsibility,” he said. “I didn’t show as much emotion, but I knew I had to leave a foundation. Growing up, we were always together and always played sports together, always messing around, playing around the house.”

“We kind of knew it was just me and him at that point and we had to look after each other,” Isaac said. “Being the older brother, he had to look out for me.”

J.P. said he “knew I had to set an example.”

“I couldn’t be out messing around getting in trouble because (I knew) if he sees that, he’ll just follow along,” J.P. said.

With his dad working, J.P. had to help out. Michael said “J.P. “had to be there for Isaac when I wasn’t there.” And he was.

You don’t want a 13-year-old kid to grow up quick,” Michael said. “You want them to enjoy life. But J.P. had to grow up quick. A lot of Isaac’s sports (aspirations) came from J.P. pushing him. And it paid off.”

After J.P. graduated from Los Lunas High in 2008, moving on to play baseball at NMMI, Issac said J.P. continued to help him from a far.

“I went through it first so I knew what it took to get better every year and not plateau,” J.P. said.”After finishing college you see the work you have to put in. So I brought that back and let him know what he’d have to do. So it was an advantage, letting him know what he had to look forward to.”

Isaac said he listened to it all, taking advantage of something few of his peers had — an older brother who was actively trying to help his younger brother to be better.

“I don’t know anyone else whose had someone like J.P., not an older brother like that,” said Isaac. “He’s always been there to push me. All he wants is the best for me. There’s times where we’d knock heads if I was tired or sore, but he kept after me and got me to be the best I could be.”

J.P., who is now finishing his criminology and architectural engineering degrees at the University of New Mexico, said he saw a lot of potential in his younger brother.

I knew he could be better than most people as an athlete,” said J.P. “If you have that kind of talent to shine, then shine.”

And shine he has. J.P. said watching Isaac has been like “a movie or a dream.”

“He excels in everything he does,” J.P. said. “You name a category and he’s at the top. It’s good to see him accomplish that. He can go further than anyone else. It’s been fun to watch him.”

For his part, Isaac said he want to continue to succeed at the next level, junior college baseball. Playing in the big leagues is a dream he’s working towards.

“Right now I want to excel at NMMI, get my education done and excel in baseball and have a good two years,” Isaac said. “The Major Leagues are kind of a long-term goal. I want to make sure I make it in junior college, hopefully go for a junior college World Series title, then keep moving on and moving up.”

Watching Isaac excel all through high school was special, said his father.

But it was still bittersweet.

“I’ll be very honest. It is little sad because his mom didn’t get to see it,” Michael said. “You get to see all the moms at the games getting this and that. Some of that will always be that she didn’t get to see it. She’s seeing it from up there (in heaven), but that’s been the hardest part.”

Isaac agreed.

“It was hard,” he said. “(But) I knew she was always with us, always there in spirit.”

Through it all, Michael and J.P. have the pride of seeing Isaac finish his high school career and move on, not just into an athletic career, but into his life.

“Every parent wants their kid to play pro ball, but only a few are chosen,” Michael said. “I believe he’s going to one of the best academic schools in the state and that’s what it’s all about, academics. That’s what I tried to instill in him and J.P. and all their friends. It’s not all about hitting a ball,” Michael said.

“It’s about academics and succeeding in life,” he said.

When it comes to succeeding in life it’s so far, so good for Isaac — and all the Parras.