Two photographers surveyed a huddle of coaches on the Henry A. Wise High School football team's sideline during the Class 4A football state championship game on Friday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.
“Which is the head coach?” one asked.
“The one with the boots,” the other replied.
As distinctive as DaLawn Parrish's in-game footwear appear now, they're not original. Parrish copied the look from Nick Lynch, who served as Suitland's football coach until he died in a 2008 car crash.
“He just made it cool,” Parrish said. “He had a style about him.”
Parrish has been carrying that link from his mentor and now they have another shared connection.
With Wise's 12-7 victory against Quince Orchard on Friday, Parrish became the first Prince George's County coach to win a state football title since 2006, when Lynch won his second championship.
“We're just happy that we can continue the tradition that he left,” Parrish said.
By “we,” Parrish said he meant coaches all across the county. Some worked with Lynch and many more knew him through the coaches' association Lynch led.
“A lot of us are still doing things that he taught or following from his footsteps and adding our own twist to it,” Parrish said. “But he was a big figure.
“When he said things, we listened.”
Parrish's fondness for Lynch is so clear. Quince Orchard coach Dave Mencarini, unprompted, spoke about how Parrish had a great mentor in Lynch.
Parrish said the biggest lesson Lynch taught him: Treat your players fairly, but be hard on them. Before learning from Lynch, Parrish said he'd tried too hard to befriend his players. Now, he toes the line in a way his team respects.
“He yells at us like we're his son,” running back Chase Powell said with a grin. “We might get cursed out a little bit at practice, but he loves us. Not only does he love us, but we love him too.”
Recently, one of Parrish's assistant coaches asked the players what their purpose is. Parrish, listening in, said he thought back to Lynch's lessons.
“It hit home,” Parrish said. “It was like, What is my purpose? My purpose is to help young boys become men. Once I could think about that, it's like, you know what? Win, lose or draw, that's what we've been doing here.”
Lynch wasn't just a mentor to Parrish, of course. Their teams played each other twice with Suitland winning both times.
But when Parrish led Wise to its first region title in 2008, he heard from Lynch.
“He goes, 'We have a new King of PG County,'” Parrish said. “'And he said, 'But you'll never beat me.'”
And Parrish never did.
The Wise football coach certainly hasn't forgotten about him either.
Parrish usually puts his own twist on his boots rather than completely copying Lynch, typically donning Nikes. But Friday, Parrish wore Timberlands, which Lynch always wore. A special game deserved a special commemoration for a special coach.
“Maybe he's up there watching me,” Parrish said, “giving me love.”