Norm Parker, A Great Influence on UI Football

Dec. 17, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker announced Dec. 11 that he will retire following Iowa’s appearance in the 2011 Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz. The Hawkeyes (7-5) meet Oklahoma on Friday, Dec. 30 (9 p.m. CT, ESPN) at Arizona State’s Sun Devil Stadium.

Parker has been Iowa’s defensive coordinator for the last 13 years, joining head coach Kirk Ferentz prior to the 1999 season on Ferentz’s initial staff. Parker had been coaching college football for over 30 years at the time, and was well-known in the Big Ten, having previously coached at Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State.

Under Parker’s direction, the Hawkeye defense has been very good. In 1999, the Hawkeye defense allowed 463 yards total offense per game. In two seasons, that average dropped to 325 yards per game as Iowa won seven games, including the 2001 Alamo Bowl. Since that time, Iowa’s defensive average has never been over 400 yards. It has been less than 300 yards per game in three seasons.

Overall, Iowa has ranked among the top 16 in the nation in total defense in five of the last eight seasons, including three of the last four years. Parker has often said, ‘you can’t let the opponent run the football.’ True to his word, his defense at Iowa has ranked among the top 10 in the nation in stopping the run in five of the last 10 seasons.

There have also been seasons when the Iowa defense was inexperienced, where the Hawkeyes improved as the season progressed. Parker’s defensive units have also lived by the “bend but don’t break” motto.

After allowing 31.5 and 27.5 points per game in 1999 and 2000, respectively, the Iowa defense allowed over 21 points a game in just two of the last 11 seasons. That would include the 23.2 average in 2011, but the Hawkeye defense is also operating without five players from the 2010 roster who are currently playing in the NFL. Nationally, Iowa has ranked in the top 16 in the nation in scoring defense in six of the last nine seasons.

While Iowa’s defense has always played with a team first motto, a large number of Hawkeye defenders have earned individual recognition throughout the years.

Two Hawkeyes have been named first team All-America, including defensive end Adrian Clayborn in 2010 and linebacker Pat Angerer in 2009. Clayborn was a finalist for several individual awards while earning consensus All-America honors last season. He was a first round NFL Draft selection and is currently a starter for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Angerer improved throughout his career, earning All-America honors while leading Iowa’s defense in 2009 as the Hawkeyes defeated Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl. Angerer was a second round NFL Draft selection by the Indianapolis Colts, and has led the league in tackles throughout much of the 2011 season.

Six Iowa players have been either a finalist or semifinal candidate for national awards, and that includes linebackers, linemen and defensive backs. Under Parker, Iowa defenders have earned first team All-Big Ten honors on 32 occasions. In 2008, Mitch King was named the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year.

In addition to the first team honors, an Iowa defensive player has earned second team honors on 26 occasions. UI defenders have earned Academic All-Big Ten recognition on 80 occasions, while earning academic all-district or All-America recognition 17 times.

Playing in the NFL is a goal for the majority of Division I football players, and a number of defensive standouts under Parker have earned the opportunity to play professional football. Twenty-one Iowa defensive players have been selected in the NFL Draft, including 10 players in the first three rounds. Along with Clayborn in the most recent draft, linebacker Chad Greenway (Minnesota) was a first round selection in the 2006 draft.

While Parker would be the first to say the players deserve all the credit for success, he has also been recognized by his peers for his outstanding contributions to college football. Parker was recently named the 2011 Assistant Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. He was a finalist for the Frank Broyles Assistant of the Year in both 2004 and 2005.

“I think everyone is aware of Norm’s expertise as a defensive coach,” said Ferentz. “The record speaks for itself and the numbers speak for themselves. I point this out every time I have a chance to talk about Norm, but I think his impact, the effect he had on this football program, goes way beyond the football part of things.

“I don’t care if you’re talking to our staff, players, support staff, they’d all tell you the same thing: his impact has really gone beyond any defense he may have called or coached during the week. That’s something we’re real appreciative of.”

As Parker prepares for his final game as Iowa’s defensive coordinator, which will be his 497th game in 44 years as a college assistant coach, he had this to say: “I like being around the guys, being around the players. It’s the fun of it. I feel like a guy, that I’m 70 years old, and I’ve never really gone to work a day in my life. I never felt like, Oh, I’ve got to go to work today. So I guess that’s good.”