Parnell didn’t play a down of high school football. He only played one season of college football, and that was as a defensive end.
The 6-foot-6, 306-pound Parnell, a four-year letterman at power forward on Ole Miss’ basketball team, is a project. The Cowboys, who signed him off the Saints’ practice squad last season, saw enough potential and progress from Parnell to keep him over 2010 sixth-round pick Sam Young.
“You certainly see the athletic ability and the arm length and the foot quickness,” Jason Garrett said. “You see that. It’s pretty obvious to see his physical traits, and that’s one of the reasons we were attracted to him. But one of the things you need to see is some football instinct, some football savvy, some understanding of offensive and defensive schemes. And then at the end of it, you need to see some compete in them.
“I think he’s gotten better in all of these areas – understanding how to use his physical ability, his length and his quickness and then understanding what we’re trying to get done and having a little instinct and competitiveness to him. It’s a process for a guy like that.”
At this point in the process, Parnell isn’t well prepared to start against a Rex Ryan defense, but the Cowboys might not have a choice.