GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (GRPS) — Robert "Rocky" Parsaca was considered small, even for his era, but he was a triple-threat football star for Union High School in the 1920s and the author of a legendary drop-kick that gave the Redhawks a share of the mythical Michigan State Championship in 1925. Standing just 5-6 and weighing 160 pounds in his prime, Parsaca grew up on Grand Rapids' west side and attended Straight School. From there he entered Union High School and was an immediate football sensation. By the time he graduated in 1928, Parsaca was an all-city and all-state quarterback for teams that rarely lost.
His penultimate moment came in 1925 when Union was hosting Muskegon, a perennial state power and the Redhawks' nemesis. The game was at Island Park and over 5,000 fans crowded the tiny venue to watch the game. It rained most of the day and the field was muddy. The game was scoreless and time was running out. With a little over a minute to go and Union deep inside Big Red territory, Parsaca signaled for a timeout. He asked the refs if they could dry off the ball. The Muskegon team protested but the refs agreed. Parsaca went to the sidelines to put on his kicking shoe and had his teammates pat down the ground around the 30-yard line. Moments later he drop-kicked a field goal that turned out to be the only score. Union went on to an undefeated season and was named co-state champion. There were no playoff games then so the honor came from writers around the state.
Parsaca continued his winning ways after high school. He played for the University of Detroit, where was sometimes referenced as "Stocky Rocky," while earning a degree in physical education. He later coached and played for the Imperial Oil Company semi-pro team in Sarnia, Ontario, a club that won its league championship each of the five years Parsaca was a member. He was a successful high school coach, leading Detroit De La Salle High School to a 32-5 record from 1937 to 1941. He also worked for a sporting goods store and for a physical metallurgy company. Parsaca spent two years in the Navy during World War II and came back to work in the Veteran's Administration until taking the job as athletic director of Southern Michigan Prison in 1948. Parsaca was a strong advocate for prisoners, regularly lobbying for activities and equipment for the program. He never slowed down, but his heart did. Rocky Parsaca was taken by a heart attack at the age of 62 in 1970. He is immortalized, along with his 1925 teammates, in the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame.
Source: Grand Rapids Press, December 1, 1970
Image: Grand Rapids History Center Digital Collection