SAN JOSE -- Some members of San Jose State's football team had no clue the player featured in a display in the training center was the same Neil Parry who coaches linebackers.

The same guy who 10 years ago Wednesday made football history by playing in a game with a prosthetic leg as a member of the Spartans' punt return team.

Parry certainly doesn't advertise it. He never wears shorts on the practice field. Heck, sometimes Parry forgets what an inspiration he became by playing three years after suffering a compound fracture during a game that led to a partial amputation of his right leg.

When new coach Ron Caragher asked his graduate assistant to address the team at the start of fall camp, Parry, now 35, hadn't realized a decade had slipped past.

Neil Parry, a sophomore safety on the San Jose State University football team, is wheeled off the Spartan Stadium field Oct. 14, 2000, after injuring his
Neil Parry, a sophomore safety on the San Jose State University football team, is wheeled off the Spartan Stadium field Oct. 14, 2000, after injuring his right leg, which would eventually have to be partially amputated. (Jill Toyoshiba/Daily Spartan)

But given a chance to reflect on what it meant to play in eight games in 2003, gain national attention and meet Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Parry smiles.

"I'd do it all over again if I had the chance," he said recently after helping his players prepare for a game Saturday at Minnesota.

Yet, the heartache of losing his leg and glorious return to the field seemed like an out-of-body experience to a father of three who is earning a master's degree in communication.

"I don't remember life as an able-bodied person," Parry said. "I'm just me."

"Just me" is a promising coach who unabashedly says he wants to run San Jose State's football program some day. Parry fell in love with the school while playing there in 1999, 2000 and '03.

His life changed Oct. 14, 2000 on a freak play during a kickoff against Texas-El Paso when a teammate was blocked into Parry. His fibula and tibia pierced his skin. An infection set in and surgeons amputated the right leg just below the knee nine days later. It took the personable young man from Sonora months just to learn to walk with the help of an artificial leg.

With his teammates applauding, Neil Parry pauses during a press conference where he vowed to return and play with a prosthetic leg.  Neil lost his leg due
With his teammates applauding, Neil Parry pauses during a press conference where he vowed to return and play with a prosthetic leg. Neil lost his leg due to an infection from a broken leg during a football game. 11/03/2000 (Tom Van Dyke/Staff archive)

Throughout the ordeal that included 25 surgeries, Parry vowed to play again even as others told him no. Parry waved off detractors. He also made it clear to then-coach Fitz Hill that he didn't want charity. If he played, Parry would have to earn it.

The special-teams player finally was ready for a home game against Nevada on Sept. 18, 2003. Parry anxiously paced the sideline waiting for his chance. Only one problem: Nevada didn't punt for three quarters.

With 13:54 left, San Jose State's defense finally held the Wolf Pack. Parry sprinted onto the field as the home crowd chanted his name. He lined up at left tackle and looked for someone to block after the kick. Then it was over. All the fuss for what, he thought.

"I felt I didn't do anything," Parry recalled. "I didn't want it to be a ceremonial-type thing. I wanted to make a play."

Then came the kids. After the game young fans clamored to talk to Parry, reminding the player of the significance of what he had just done.

Parry knew what his life calling would be after the 2003 season ended with a tackle in the East-West Shrine game. He would follow his father Nick Parry into coaching.

After helping broadcast Spartan football games on the radio, Neil Parry became a defensive coordinator in 2007 at Morgan Hill-Sobrato High School. Four years later he was a graduate assistant at UC Davis.

Former San Jose State University player and current graduate assistant Neil Parry during SJSU’s first practice of the season on SJSU’s practice
Former San Jose State University player and current graduate assistant Neil Parry during SJSU's first practice of the season on SJSU's practice field in San Jose, Calif. on Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

He's in the second of three years as a Spartan graduate assistant. Then Parry will either earn a full-time slot or move on in the nomadic profession. He just hopes it is in San Jose, where his wife is a project manager at eBay.

Parry's master's program project involves creating a mobile application that will help San Jose State recruit football players. He even named his first son Leonidas after a famous Spartan king.

"Given a chance, I'm not leaving," Parry said.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.

saturday's game

San Jose State (1-1) at Minnesota (3-0),
9 a.m. ESPN2