Oct. 6, 2010
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa football defensive coordinator Norm Parker had his right foot amputated because of complications from diabetes and is making rapid strides to recovery, head coach Kirk Ferentz said Wednesday outside the Hayden Fry Football Complex.
Parker, who is in his 12th season at Iowa, is the mastermind of a Hawkeye defense that currently ranks second in the nation (Football Bowl Subdivision) in scoring (10.2 points per game) and rushing (63.2 yards per game) and fourth in total defense (242.2). Iowa is 4-1 in all games, 1-0 in the Big Ten Conference and ranked 15th in Associated Press and USA Today polls.
Ferentz said some of the best medicine Parker received came in the form of a 24-3 win against Penn State on Oct. 2.
“Based on his voice Sunday and from what I saw of him on Monday, I think we’re gaining ground right now,” Ferentz said. “I’m pretty sure he saw the Iowa State game and the Penn State game in their entirety — probably the best medicine we could give him. Where he was Monday compared to a week ago Monday — night and day difference.”
Ferentz said the surgery took place “roughly two weeks” ago. Parker was released from the hospital last week and he is under doctor’s supervision during rehabilitation.
“He’s getting great care right now and thorough physical therapy,” Ferentz said. “He has turned the corner mentally.”
The Iowa program alerted the NCAA of Parker’s situation and administrative assistant LeVar Woods, a three-year letterman for the Hawkeyes from 1998-2000, has helped on-field and with office duties, such as film break-down.
“He’s no stranger to our defense, so that was fortunate for us that he was here and available,” Ferentz said. “He’s done a great job; everyone’s done a great job.”
Woods was an outside linebacker at Iowa, then spent seven seasons in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals, Detroit Lions and Tennessee Titans.
Previously it was thought Parker would return for Iowa’s Oct. 16 game at Michigan, but Ferentz said that might be an “ambitious” assumption now. Ferentz said the Hawkeyes have momentum on their side and he is guarding against having Parker return too soon and disrupt his progress.
“Everybody’s working together. It’s our defense. Norm’s philosophy is well in place — our players understand it, our coaches understand it.”
UI head coach Kirk Ferentz
“The whole idea is to get him back for years, not weeks,” Ferentz said. “My sense is he wants to come back and he wants to come back for the long haul. He has no inclination to retire; this is what he loves doing and a big, big part of the motivation of doing the surgery is so he can come back for the long haul and not the rest of the season. I think he has a lot of things in mind for the next couple years, not just the next couple weeks.”
When Parker returns, Ferentz assumes he will coach from the press box, but emphasized he didn’t want to speak for Parker, who began coaching in 1965 and St. John’s (Mich.) High School.
“Once he gets fitted with a permanent prosthetic, I wouldn’t put any stipulations on him,” Ferentz said. “I don’t care if he coaches on top of the press box. I know this, this guy has a lot of wisdom, he’s totally invested, he’s loved and respected by everybody here — it’s going to be a good thing when we get him back.”
Ferentz opened his mini nine-minute press conference by thanking Hawkeye fans who made last Saturday’s Homecoming, Black & Gold Spirit Game a success.
“I can’t tell you how neat it was coming out of that tunnel and I know our players felt the same way to look up and see that black and gold,” Ferentz said. “Credit to (director of football operations) Paul Federici for coming up with the concept. I thought it was a tremendous idea and more importantly, our fans carried it out. Their execution was beautiful and we do appreciate that.”