Seniors Hope to Bring UVa Careers Full Circle

Kevin Parks is on the verge of writing the final chapter in his career as a running back at Virginia. It's a career that includes 27 touchdowns in 36 games, and a thousand-yard season as a junior last year.

Three years ago, Parks was a redshirt freshman on the 2011 UVa team that was loaded with seniors -- guys like Chase Minnifield, Rodney McLeod, and Matt Conrath on defense; Austin Pasztor, Kris Burd, and Max Milien on offense.

"Just remembering those guys, they were determined," Parks said at least week's UVa media day. "They were hungry, those seniors. Just remembering Chase, and Kris Burd. Guys like that. They were hungry."

"And that's got to be our mindset," Parks said. "We've got to be hungry, and wanting to go out there and go get it."

The fifth-year seniors on the 2011 team had been members of the 2007 UVa team that lost to Texas Tech at the Gator Bowl -- and hadn't been back to a bowl game since. The Cavaliers were coming off a 4-8 season in 2010, Mike London's first as head coach at Virginia.

Led by that senior class -- 11 of UVa's starters that year were seniors, including seven on defense -- Virginia won eight games in 2011, and ended the year with a loss to Auburn in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

UVa hasn't been back to a bowl game since.

Parks was among the freshmen who played a part in that eight-win season in 2011, setting a new program record for first-year players with nine rushing touchdowns. Demetrious Nicholson started all 13 games at cornerback as a true freshman that year.

"The guys in my class, we talk about how this year's team kind of in a way reflects the team that was here when we were first-years," the senior said at media day. "Because we have a lot of seniors coming back. We have a lot of guys that played in multiple games, from the best games to the worst games, to overtime games. So we have experience."

"There's a sense of urgency, in the sense that we want to win," said senior offensive lineman Conner Davis, a backup who appeared in four games on the 2011 team. "This senior group that I've been with, we've been to the highest of highs, the Chick-fil-A Bowl. We've been, last year we went 2-10. So really this year we're kind of like, whatever needs to get done to win games, we're trying to do."

UVa enters the 2014 season with 23 fourth- or fifth-year players on the roster. The Cavaliers also enter the year with high-profile true freshmen expected to play key roles this fall, including safety Quin Blanding and defensive tackle Andrew Brown.

And those seniors who tasted success as freshmen three years ago are now hoping to end their careers by revisiting that experience.

"It's being reinforced throughout our team that we have a lot of seniors," said Nicholson. "Coach London speaks on it a lot. And he expects us to carry our team as far as we can go. And we just have to get the young guys to follow, as we did my first year. And that way all together we can win games."

"I'm just taking it as I've got to be that guy to kind of be that mentor for the younger guys," said senior defensive tackle David Dean. "I'm just kind of taking this role as more of a mentor role, to get everyone up, bring everyone up to my level and our leaders' levels, so we can all be great, and all have a successful season."

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