Little Parrish “PJ” Purnell Jr. bounced up and down as he proudly announced to his parents he would be successful when he grew up. He would wear a suit and carry a briefcase heading off to his very important job every morning. He was going places, and nothing was going to stop him.
Today, he’s dressed for the job he wants rather than the one he has, and his brown eyes are brighter than ever. As he grew into a man his childhood dream changed, but he is determined to seek the Lord and His plan.
Though he could have played college basketball for a few other schools, God brought PJ to ORU. Despite PJ’s plan to play professionally, he stopped play-ing after his sophomore year. The plan for success began to transform into something he’d never imagined.
“After I stopped playing basketball in college, God really took hold of me, showed me what I would do without basketball,” PJ said.
PJ recognized new passions he didn’t realize he had being awakened, along with new ways to use them. His hunger for success remained, but it became secondary to what it meant to grow closer to God.
“There is so much joy and peace, you feel complete when you listen to His voice, even if it doesn’t look like what you want it to look like,” PJ said. “His plans are much greater.”
During the rest of his college career after basketball, PJ worked for the student-led radio station, KORU, and for the Oracle as a sportswriter. He worked for President William M. Wilson in a cabinet-like group called the Order of the Golden Eagle.
God’s plan for PJ’s life is still unfolding. He remained ambitious though things looked different from what he imagined as a child. His talkative and relational personality coupled with his intense motivation continued to open doors for him to reach new goals.
“The biggest thing for me in college, and I can’t stress this enough for students, is to network,” PJ said. “You can learn all you want in class, you can do all your homework, you can get all A’s, you can get on the Dean’s List, the President’s List, but if you don’t net-work, it’s kind of hard to be as successful as you could be.”
PJ is as comfortable sitting down with someone new and genuinely get-ting to know them as he is playing basketball with friends. He described his time on ORU’s campus as the perfect blend of those passions to open his eyes to the greater plan ahead of him. He has recently picked up basketball again on a professional level.
“After I retire from basketball, when it’s all said and done, and I can’t run like I used to, I will be pursuing a career in sports broadcasting,” PJ said. “I want to be an NBA analyst. I am ex-cited most about basketball, more than any other sport, and I want to be on ESPN.”
PJ now works as the communications specialist in the Public Relations Department. Whenever he needs a short break from his office, he can be seen walking around campus. Most students recognize him from chapel announcement videos or the virtual tour videos on the university website, which usually proves to be a great ice breaker as he is most commonly described as “ORU famous.”
“I’m still growing. I definitely don’t have it all together.” PJ said. “But I do feel like I’m walking in my purpose, and I know where God’s sending me. It’s easier to say ‘yes’ when you have a vision of what you know you’re sup-posed to do, even if you don’t know what it looks like completely. When you hear God, you just say ‘Alright, I trust you.’”