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From the bench to the pros: Parrish’s rags-to-riches tale

Toby Corriston
Captain Brandon Parrish hugs his second national championship trophy after defeating Notre Dame 2-1 in December; Parrish opened scoring with a goal to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

Brandon Parrish played 25 minutes in Clemson’s national championship win in 2021. Two years later, he hoisted the trophy again, but as captain of the squad in his final game as a Clemson United player.

Coming off the bench in 2021, the then-sophomore played as an extra midfielder to control possession as the Tigers held on following two goals from teammate Isaiah Reid. He was on the field when the final whistle was blown, celebrating with the squad as they lifted their first trophy in 34 years and their third in school history.

After many players left for the MLS that offseason, early opportunities did not go Parrish’s way. He started six of 16 total games in his junior season with the Tigers, scoring a goal and adding an assist along the way. It wasn’t until that year’s ACC Tournament that he began to shine.

In Durham, North Carolina, when Clemson faced top-seeded Duke in the quarterfinal of the tournament, Parrish found his moment in the last minute of the game, scoring an incredible solo goal to deal the knockout blow to the Blue Devils.

Just three days later, against Wake Forest, he scored again from 25 yards out, helping the Tigers win the game 2-0.

Despite Clemson’s eventual loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament that year, things were looking up for the Nashville, Tennessee, native. Plenty of vital players were returning for his senior season, and head coach Mike Noonan brought in a few transfers to help boost the squad for another tournament run. Parrish was also named the captain of the team, alongside defender Adam Lundegard.

The start of their season was far from ideal, as Clemson experienced a loss to the UCF Knights at home in the first game of the 2023 season. The Tigers were unranked by Sept. 22 with a record of five wins, three losses and one draw.

After that third defeat, the midfielder and his team did not lose a single game. Parrish led the way to a nine-game unbeaten streak and an ACC Championship trophy, totaling four goals and two assists. In the Tigers’ penalty shootout win over North Carolina in this year’s conference championship, the captain played 91 of the 110 total minutes and made the first of Clemson’s five penalty shootout goals.

Parrish always showed up in big moments, especially in NCAA Tournament runs. He led the team to another four straight wins in the tournament, shutting out the likes of New Hampshire, Stanford and West Virginia on the way to their sixth College Cup final in school history.

That’s where the biggest moment of his career came. After a failed Notre Dame clearance came to his feet, the senior fired a right-footed half-volley onto goal that sliced away from the Irish goalkeeper and opened the scoring. He later saved a ball on the goal line, making an acrobatic play to clear it away from goalkeeper Joseph Andema.

After teammate Ousmane Sylla made it a two-goal lead in the second half, the Tigers were in the driver’s seat until the final whistle blew, and Parrish was a two-time champion.

After lifting their second trophy in three years, Noonan raved about his standout midfielder and the efforts that he made over his past four years.

“He’s a very special young man and plays with an incredible amount of passion,” Noonan said. “His future in the game is very bright because he is going to get better and better over the next three to four years.”

Parrish will look to advance to the next step of his career through the MLS SuperDraft, where he has found a new home with D.C. United as the 36th overall pick.

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About the Contributors
Griffin Barfield
Griffin Barfield, Asst. Sports Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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