At John Parrella’s previous high school football coaching stop at Valley Christian in Dublin, California, his first youth summer camp totaled 12 signups.

By his fifth year there, that number swelled to more than 600.

Eight years later, Parrella’s back on the high school sidelines at the helm of Lutheran West, and he’s looking to grow in much the same way.

The Longhorns hosted their youth camp from June 24-26, running two sessions each day. Kids entering grades 6-9 took to the turf in the morning from 9-11 a.m., while grades 3-5 ran from 5-7 p.m. Parrella’s staff and current Longhorns players helped lead its many drills and games.

He estimated that there were more than 100 people registered.

“The kids worked hard today,” Parrella said after a session with the older kids wrapped up last week. “We’ve had a great camp so far and I think the kids really enjoyed it.”

Parrella’s excited to be back in the high school ranks, and Lutheran West is his first head coaching job in the state of Ohio. That excitement has rubbed off on the players, who’ve been turning up to off-season programming in greater numbers than years past. Though he didn’t have an exact number, Parrella estimated that the Longhorns’ roster size has doubled since he was hired in December.

“Our kids have been training since our first week here and they’ve done a great job of believing what we’re telling them and being here and accountable,” he said. “I’m very impressed with their work ethic and they’re just understanding concepts differently. They’re learning things they haven’t before.”

Parrella’s youth camp, much like his initial hiring, came with a bit of wow factor. After camp wrapped up on June 24, he ushered everyone into the stadium bleachers, where they listened to a guest speaker, Elyria native and Ohio State University football alum Chase Farris. Campers got to bounce questions off of the former Buckeye, who also played with the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots organizations from 2016-17.

To Farris’ left stood Parrella, a 12-year NFL veteran who retired in 2004. A second round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in 1993, the defensive lineman also spent time with the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders and appeared in three Super Bowls. Prior to going pro, he played collegiately for hall-of-fame coach Tom Osborne at the University of Nebraska, where he was an All-Big Eight selection three times.

Before joining former Longhorns coach Frank Petroff’s staff last year as a volunteer, he spent the 2018 season as an assistant defensive line coach for the Browns. At the college level, he coached defensive lines for Nebraska, Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan, and Chabot College in Hayward, California.

But there’s something about the high school level that has stuck with Parrella. His high school coach at Grand Island Central Catholic, Carl Tesmer, was one of the first to help him along his path. After receiving great coaching himself as a youth from Tesmer and from Osborne and Charlie McBride at Nebraska, he wants to do the same for the Longhorns – present and future.

“For one thing, I was a jerk in high school, just lost,” he said. “And I had such a great coach and such a forgiving god that it kind of got me squared away, and I’m forever grateful for that. I thought, it’s a chance to give back, a chance to help boys become great men and, in turn, teach them about football as well. So when this came available and they called me, we sat down and talked and it was a no-brainer for me. What they’re doing here, and the vision for this school – the opportunities are limitless here.”

“I tell my coaches that we’re the most blessed coaches in the world,” he said. “We have great kids who work really hard and I’m excited for our future.”

Contact this reporter at sports@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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