ATLANTA, Ga. - The University of Alabama football team boasts several players from the Tennessee Valley, including backup long snapper Ryan Parris.
The James Clemens High School graduate has only been on the field for two plays in his career, but he's still inspiring his team from his spot on the sidelines.
Just being in Atlanta has been a thrill of a lifetime for Parris. A serious eye condition has affected his vision, but the traumatic experience has put what's important in his life, back into focus.
“I’m looking forward to the game on Saturday, being down here for the first time," said Parris.
Probably the only thing that Parris loves more than Alabama football is the outdoors. “I had gone camping, hiking, washed them in rivers and lakes, far worse than regular tap water. I never realized washing them in tap water could bring me this," he said.
That lack of care for his contacts lead to him contracting an eye-eating amoeba, called Acanthamoeba Keratitis, that brought him dangerously close to legal blindness.
“I used to have to go once a week, I was doing drops once an hour," said Parris.
He tells us things are getting better. He's no longer in constant pain.
“Now I’m doing my drops once a day, The way the doctor says it, the amoeba in my eye is about dead and gone so I just have to keep doing the drops to make sure it doesn’t redevelop," he says.
While Parris still has a long road before making a full recovery, he says he's learned a valuable lesson along the way.
“All the people that texted me when things got real bad, it showed me who my real friends are and who I can always count on," said Parris.
So yes, you may not see Ryan snap the ball Saturday night, but his name is still being cheered loudly, back home in Madison.
“I’ve gotten texts this morning saying Ryan I saw you on ESPN, I saw you on ESPN, and I was like, I didn’t even know there was a camera there," says Parris. “Half my family’s Alabama, half my family’s Auburn, and even the Auburn fans are going to be looking for me.”
Parris still has three years of eligibility left, but after his football career comes to a close, doctors tell him he'll need to have a major eye procedure done to permanently correct his vision.