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Donald Parham: Dallas' 'deceivingly fast' threat

Donald Parham turns on the jets and finds the end zone during the Renegades second-straight win on Saturday afternoon.

ARLINGTON, Texas – Donald Parham swears he can run 23 mph.

“I can do 23,” the Dallas Renegades tight end told after practice earlier this week at Globe Life Park. “Absolutely. No doubt.”

For context, a tweet from Recruiting Analytics last weekend pegged Parham’s top speed on a 65-yard touchdown at 21.1 mph. He countered, “I can get 23mph...let me get fresher legs.”

For those wondering where 23 mph stacks up: That’s as fast as Tyreek Hill, the fastest man in the NFL. Parham, though, is 6-foot-8 and 257 pounds. Hill is 5-10, 185.

That’s a lot of force (mass times acceleration) from Parham running at and away from foes for the Renegades, who return home Sunday for a Texas Throwdown after a two-game road sweep. Dallas (2-1) plays host to the undefeated Houston Roughnecks (3-0) with first place in the West Division at stake (FS1, 4 p.m. ET).

Parham, 22, played a huge role in both wins at Los Angeles and Seattle, catching a combined 10 passes for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Against the Dragons alone, he hauled in five balls for 101 yards and two scores from quarterback Landry Jones.

The two touchdowns at Seattle came in the second half, helping the Renegades pull away for a 24-12 victory. The first TD late in the third – a 10-yarder – tied the score at 12-12. The Dragons left the middle of the field open and Dallas took advantage.

“We sucked them in with the RPO, drew the linebackers down and threw it over the top,” Parham said.

His second visit to the end zone went viral, as Parham caught a “deep-over” about 15 yards down field and ran away from the defense for the last 50. He quipped that he used a “little giddy-up I had in my back pocket” to create separation.

Donald Parham has reservations for six.

“My old college coach used to tell me I’m deceivingly fast,” he said. “I definitely use that as an advantage coming out of breaks and running at people. They don’t think I’m moving that fast until I’m up on them.”

His long strides have something to do with that optical illusion. Asked to come up with a comp to Parham from his NFL playing career, Landry could only scratch his head.

“I’ve never really played with anybody that’s 6-8 that can move like that,” said Landry, a former Pittsburgh Steelers backup. “I’m trying to rack my brain. No, no one.”

That sheer size is jarring for teammates, opponents and XFL observers.

“Parham is enormous,” FOX analyst Joel Klatt exclaimed during the Seattle game.

Landry has developed a quick rapport with this big target despite relatively few reps together. Landry missed essentially all of training camp with a knee injury and didn’t return until the second game.

They’ve made up for lost time with a two-week stretch that’s put the league on notice.

“It’s just the basis of us trusting each other,” Parham said. “It’s not something that was overnight. It was over time we trusted each other. When he throws the ball, I catch it.”

Simple enough. They’ve also developed a rather elementary drill in practice where Parham stands under the goal post and Landry sees how high he can throw it to him successfully.

“You just have to get used to throwing to him,” Landry said. “He has a unique body, him being so tall and lanky and being able to move like he does. It’s taken a little bit to get used to his height and where I can actually put the ball.”

Donald Parham brings in one of his five catches during Saturday's win against the Seattle Dragons.

Dallas head coach Bob Stoops believes Landry and Parham are just scratching the surface when it comes to their potential as a tandem.

“I think it’s only going to get better,” Stoops said. “Landry, as he gets their timing down and gets more work together. I think Donald is just an exceptional target and so Landry finds it comfortable to go to him, especially in some of the spaces where he’s been open.”

Coming out of Stetson, an FCS school in the Pioneer League, Parham went largely overlooked, despite a senior season totaling 85 catches for 1,319 yards and 13 touchdowns. He went undrafted in the NFL in 2019 before short tryouts with the Detroit Lions and Washington Redskins.

The Renegades took Parham in the ninth round of the XFL skill position draft, and that pick looks like a steal now. Stoops can’t put a finger on what attribute has impressed him most about his starting tight end.

“Really everything,” he said. “He’s a great individual as a young person. He’s incredibly talented. Got great size, has speed, he’s got great hands, so he’s been a major player for us and has made a bunch of big plays.”

Parham’s production so far and physical gifts are creating plenty of buzz. He’s heard of NFL interest from his agent, but remains focused in the moment and what’s directly ahead.

Getting off to better starts is one goal, with the Renegades being down in the second half in both of their wins. Houston is also a major test with the season nearing the halfway point.

“It’ll be a big win for us, especially coming here at home,” Parham said. “It will definitely give us some drive to go through the whole season leading the West, so it would definitely be a big win.”