LAWRENCE — Moments after fielding the final question at his first postgame news conference as Kansas football head coach, Les Miles offered a question of his own.
“Where’s Andrew Parchment,” he shouted.
As he exited Mrkonic Auditorium, Miles’ voice carried throughout Anderson Family Football Complex. His first victory with the Jayhawks secured, the “Mad Hatter” was on the hunt for the player perhaps most responsible for that outcome.
Parchment, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior wide receiver, shined in his own KU debut. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native caught eight passes for 121 yards in the season-opening victory, coming up huge in the final minutes with a pair of chain-moving receptions in his team’s go-ahead drive in the eventual 24-17 comeback victory over Indiana State on Saturday at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.
The afternoon ended with an exclamation point for Parchment, who evaded a defender and threw a successful two-point conversion pass to tight end Jack Luavasa on a trick play that gave the Jayhawks (1-0) their winning margin.
Delivering his opening statement at the postgame news conference, Miles made it clear why he would only minutes later seek the team’s breakout wideout.
“Andrew Parchment I thought just played lights out,” Miles said. “Next time I see him, I’m gonna try to give him some MVP award somehow.”
Miles and Parchment would eventually find one another, but more on that later.
As Parchment explained, that wasn’t the first heart-to-heart he’d had Saturday.
“This morning was crazy, just talking to my mom on the phone about everything that I’ve been through. This is my third school,” Parchment said. “I’m just happy and blessed to be in this position with these great coaches, great players. I feel like this was made for me, so I’m very happy about that.”
Parchment’s mother, Lauriann, helped her son put the journey in perspective — a former three-star recruit in the Class of 2016, Parchment caught one total pass in two years at Northern Illinois before transferring to Iowa Central Community College, where he appeared in limited action before joining KU this offseason.
“My mom just reminded me how much hard work I’ve put in,” Parchment said. “For me, being in college football has just been a rollercoaster of emotions, from NIU, deciding to go to juco, after juco only playing four or five games, and then to coach Miles taking a chance on me to come here. I’m just blessed to be here and I’m happy everything is going the way it is.”
Parchment’s afternoon was chock-full of highlights, particularly in the second half.
He contributed 27- and 32-yard receptions on the Jayhawk offense’s first touchdown drive of the season, the former a jet sweep pop pass out of the shotgun from quarterback Carter Stanley in the backfield. Parchment showed good awareness on KU’s next drive, securing a 20-yard reception on a would-be interception that was instead batted in the air by an Indiana State defender.
“That was actually the craziest thing I think I’ve ever been in,” Parchment said of the bizarre reception. “I just shook my (head) like, ‘Man, I guess so.’ I guess everything was just working my way today. Just blessed everything happened that way.”
Ahead of the game-winning drive — KU took over down one with 4:24 remaining — Parchment recalled words spoken earlier in the week by wide receivers coach Emmett Jones, who promised Saturday’s game would come down to that position group. That proved true, as Parchment and senior Daylon Charlot amassed four combined receptions for 68 yards on the go-ahead drive, which was capped with Charlot’s 22-yard leaping touchdown snag.
Parchment raved about his roommate Charlot, someone who he said has become something of a brother figure in the short time they’ve known one another.
“Me and him, we talk about these type of moments every single day,” Parchment said. “Our dream is to make it to the next level, and those are the type of plays we need to make, especially for the team in a fourth-quarter game down. ... We’re just happy we made those plays.”
As for Parchment’s cherry-on-top two-point conversion, perhaps the trick play shouldn’t have come as that much of a surprise — Parchment starred at quarterback for Cypress Bay High School, and Miles revealed the Jayhawks had practiced that particular play all fall camp.
“I always beg coach Miles to get me a passing play this whole entire spring,” Parchment said. “He just told me, ‘Be patient, be patient.’ We’ve just been working on that play every single day leading up to Indiana State. I knew he was going to call it. I was just waiting for it.”
OK, “waiting for it” might not be entirely accurate — during a Jayhawk timeout between the Charlot touchdown and the two-point attempt, Parchment took matters into his own hands.
“I looked at coach Miles and I said, ‘I want to run the play,’ ” Parchment recalled. “So he trusted me, and I was ready for it. I was ready for it.”
With a different head coach, perhaps Parchment wouldn’t have been bold enough to make such a request. Given the relationship he’s developed with Miles, though, Parchment said he didn’t think twice.
That bond was evident when Miles eventually did track down Parchment after the news conference. There, the wide receiver thanked the head coach for taking a chance on him, and Miles replied Parchment deserves all the credit for the showing.
Truthfully, Miles’ greatest thrill in his return to the sideline may very well have been the way the Jayhawks’ newest weapon burst onto the scene in his first taste of college football’s highest level.
“The run out on the field,” Miles said at his news conference, “(my) heart rate was about ...”
Tap, tap, tap — Miles knocked on the lectern, each coming about a second apart.
“And then when we’re throwing balls to AP,” he continued, “my heart rate was ..."