Renford Parkes used to be one of the most intimidating UCF Knights out on the gridiron, tackling more than 70 opponents throughout his collegiate football career. But since graduating from the University of Central Florida in May 2007, the former strong safety has removed his pads and helmet to reveal a more hospitable side. The now 27-year-old Parkes currently serves as the Director of Operations for the Westin Lake Mary, where he takes great pride in ensuring that his hotel guests enjoy their stay.

“I love being in the hospitality industry,” said Parkes. “I enjoy being around people, different cultures and experiencing something new every day.”

Parkes first became interested in the hospitality industry at the end of his freshman year.

“When I first came to UCF, I started out as a business major, but it just wasn’t for me,” said the Titusville High School Academic All-American. “I wanted to study something that I was passionate about, so I got with an academic advisor and I ended up finding a connection with hospitality.”

Parkes decision to enroll at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management ultimately proved to be a very beneficial, but demanding choice for the student athlete, as it meant juggling football, academics and a required internship all at the same time.

“For me, a typical day consisted of morning practice, study hall in the afternoon and an internship at the front desk of our team hotel at night,” said Parkes. “It was a crazy schedule, but at the same time, I was learning a lot and building character.”

Through his experience as a student athlete, Parkes learned the importance of accountability, dependability and responsibility, which not only showed on the field, helping the Knights reach their first-ever bowl game in 2005, but it also helped the Titusville, Fla. native achieve his career goals.

“At the time, it was very challenging being a student athlete, but looking back on it now, it has helped me out immensely,” said Parkes. “Being a student athlete has helped shape me into a well-rounded individual and has instilled core values, which has helped me in business and in my personal life.”

Today, Parkes oversees the day-to-day operations of one of central Florida’s nicest and busiest hotels, working 12-hour shifts, six days a week. He interfaces with several different departments on a daily basis, including the front office, housekeeping, transportation, guest relations and customer service.

“I never would have been prepared for this job without UCF’s help,” said Parkes. “I have developed an excellent work ethic because of football; all of the courses I took at Rosen relate directly to my job; and all the on-the-job training I received from my internships, I use every day.”

To help stress the importance of good work ethic, a solid education and relevant work experience to future hospitality leaders, Parkes occasionally returns to his alma mater to speak to students about his experience and offers advice. Most recently, Parkes served as a guest speaker at the Knights of Legend event hosted by the UCF Alumni Association and 4EVER KNIGHTS.

Parkes’ goal is to one day become the general manager of a five-star hotel.