I have seen the future and it's electric. It's a short throw turned into a long, frenetic touchdown jaunt that leaves mouths agape. It's a punt return low on potential that concludes with an improbable end zone celebration. There's fast and there's quick and then there's Roscoe Parrish, who's so far ahead of the game he could make hay before the harvest.
You'd have thought there'd be no immediate impact players left by the time the Buffalo Bills drafted last Saturday, no one who could demand opponents account for his presence on every single play. How do you get someone that explosive at 55th overall unless you've stowed him in a cave?
But there was Parrish, the University of Miami receiver, the human speed dial, still on the board when the Bills finally got their turn. And there was receivers coach Tyke Tolbert with his fingers crossed, and special teams coach Bobby April with his fingers crossed, while General Manager Tom Donahoe, assistant GM Tom Modrak and head coach Mike Mularkey huddled to assess the available options.
"All of a sudden Tom Donahoe screams, 'Get Roscoe Parrish on the phone,' " Tolbert said. "And I wanted to do cartwheels."
Give Tolbert until midseason. By then he'll be on to back flips.
Granted, it's hard to look bad in the pad-less, non-contact world of minicamp. But it's just as hard to get eyebrows to raising and jaws to dropping and everyone to thinking this could be the biggest heist since the Great Train Robbery. That's what Parrish has done during his first two practice days in Buffalo, outjumping taller defenders for passes, outracing speedy defenders for passes, leaping over the middle to snare a high throw and returning to full speed seemingly before his feet hit the ground.
"He showed some flashes today of why we drafted him," Tolbert said Saturday. "He's fast, he's quick, and once he gets it all down he can be a force to be reckoned with. We got Lee Evans here last year, who was fast as all get out, and Roscoe's 40 time is actually faster than Lee Evans' 40 time."
"I think he's going to be dynamite," April said. "He's every bit or more than I was hoping for in terms of quickness. I mean, he is so quick. When you watch that guy, that is quickness at a level that, I mean, you don't see that."
It could be to the Bills' everlasting glee that Parrish grew to only 5-foot-9, 168 pounds. He's too small to thrive when set wide because sturdy defensive backs will jam him at the line. So he must operate out of the slot, which means he was categorized as somewhat of a luxury as teams wound their way through the draft. The Bills, already in possession of Evans and Eric Moulds and looking to maximize their payoff on J.P. Losman's scrambling ability, were amenable to a niche pick.
"It's going to be an exciting year to have two guys with all that speed coupled with the fact that Eric Moulds can still move a little bit too, as you saw today in practice," Tolbert said. "So it's going to be an interesting year for the receiving corps."
Parrish is so elusive, such a roadrunner, that Mularkey already has him penciled in as his punt returner. What does that tell you, considering Nate Clements last season went the distance on a punt return, and Jonathan "Fast Freddie" Smith went all the way on a punt return, and Mularkey regards special teams with Marv Levy-like importance?
"All of them are good, Roscoe is exceptional though," April said. "He's an exceptional athlete. He'd really be dangerous back there."
April's coached some fearsome return men over the years: Deion Sanders in Atlanta, Rod Woodson in Pittsburgh, Tyrone Hughes in New Orleans. He sees similarities among them and Parrish. He also sees qualities that could set Parrish apart.
"I think this guy will end up being special because he might have the initial quicks, and the initial burst, and vision like maybe none of them have had," April said. "Certainly Deion had burst and everything, but this guy's used to running with the ball. He's used to having the ball in his hands and beating defenders. That's why it's good to have a guy that's familiar catching that short pass, that hitch, and making it go. He's self-trained as a returner. In all his work, like today, if he catches a short pass and he takes off, he's practicing punt returns."
Parrish is anything but all speed, no substance, a jack rabbit of a decoy. His hands have been sure. His toughness was demonstrated during his days at Miami. Send him over the middle and he's off and running, fearlessly determined.
Some of his biggest plays have come in clutch situations, such as his 62-yard punt return that thwarted Virginia's upset bid, the leaping 25-yard TD catch that put that game away, his 72-yard punt return against Florida in the Peach Bowl.
Get the ball in Parrish's hands and anything can happen. He looks like an ideal addition to a franchise that's overhauled its offense in an effort to get better fast.