Phil Parker, who served as defensive backs coach at the University of Iowa for 13 seasons, is in his 11th season as defensive coordinator. He returned to coaching Iowa’s defensive secondary in 2013 as well. Parker was named by Rivals.com in March, 2011, as a first-team member of its College Football Assistant Coach Dream Team.
The Hawkeyes won 10 games in 2021, winning the Big Ten’s West Division title and advancing to the conference championship game. Iowa concluded the season with an appearance in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl and was ranked 23rd in the nation in the final national rankings. Iowa’s streak of nine straight bowl invitations matches the longest in school history and the Hawkeyes have been in the Top 25 final rankings four straight seasons.
Iowa opened the 2021 season with six straight wins and closed the regular season with four straight victories to earn the West Division title and a berth in the league championship game for the second time since 2015. Iowa has been in the final national rankings in each of the past four seasons and has earned 19 conference wins in the past three seasons, Iowa’s highest three-year conference win total since 2002-04.
Iowa’s defense set a school record and led the nation with 25 interceptions in 2021. The defense ranked among national leaders in takeaways (30, third), defensive touchdowns scored (four, seventh), pass efficiency defense (110.5, sixth), turnover margin (0.8, 11th), rushing defense (114.4, 13th), scoring defense (19.2, 13th), and total defense (328.8, 18th).
Riley Moss was named the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten, Iowa’s fifth honoree since 2012 (Amani Hooker, 2018, Josh Jackson, 2017, Desmond King, 2015, Micah Hyde, 2012). Moss, defensive back Dane Belton and linebacker Jack Campbell all earned first-team All-Big Ten honors, as Campbell led the nation with 143 total tackles. Defensive end Zach VanValkenburg and defensive back Matt Hankins each earned second-team all-conference recognition.
Belton, who declared for the NFL following his junior season, was selected by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 2022 NFL Draft. Belton is the 17th defensive back coached by Parker selected in the draft, with nine of those players being selected in the first four rounds. In addition, defensive backs Matt Hankins (Atlanta) and Jack Koerner (New Orleans), along with defensive end Zach VanValkenburg (Las Vegas) signed free agent contracts immediately following the 2022 draft.
Following back-to-back narrow losses to open the 2020 season, Iowa won six straight games, all in Big Ten play, to complete the regular season. The Hawkeyes allowed just seven points in three of the six wins. The winning streak included road wins at Minnesota, Penn State and Illinois, and trophy game victories over Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The Hawkeyes were ranked 15th in the nation in the final CFP rankings and coaches poll, and 16th by the Associated Press. The Hawkeyes were selected to compete in the 2020 Music City Bowl, but that event was canceled.
Iowa won 47 games from 2015-19, the highest total in school history over any five-year period, and a total that ranked ninth nationally. Iowa won its final four games in 2019 and ranked 15th in the nation in the final Associated Press and coaches polls.
Iowa’s defense in 2020 led the nation in allowing opponents just 4.3 yards per play. The Hawkeyes ranked among the national leaders in several additional categories, including scoring (16.0, 7th), pass efficiency defense (110.1, 9th), rushing defense (107.6, 11th), total defense (313.8, 12th), red zone defense (.727, 12th), and interceptions (11, 19th).
Junior tackle Daviyon Nixon earned unanimous consensus All-America honors in 2020. He was named the Big Ten’s defensive lineman and defensive Player of the Year. He was a finalist for both the Outland Trophy and Nagurski Award. Senior end Chauncey Golston also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors. Golston was selected in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft (Dallas) and Nixon was a fifth-round selection (Carolina). Linebacker Nick Niemann was also a sixth round selection (Los Angeles Chargers).
The Hawkeyes concluded the 2019 campaign with a 10-3 record following a 49-24 win over No. 22 Southern California in the Holiday Bowl. The three losses were all to ranked opponents by a combined 14 points. The Hawkeyes were 4-1 in trophy games for the third straight season.
Iowa completed the 2018 season with a 9-4 mark and a final ranking of 25th in the Associated Press national rankings. The Hawkeyes earned a 27-22 Outback Bowl win over No. 18 Mississippi State to close the season with three straight wins. The four losses came by a total of 23 points and all were decided in the final minutes of play. Iowa tied for second in the Big Ten West Division.
Iowa tied for second in the nation in interceptions (20) in 2018 after leading the nation in 2017 with 21. Iowa’s 89 thefts over the past five seasons lead the nation. The 2019 Hawkeye defense ranked among the top 17 nationally in scoring defense (5th, 14.0), first downs allowed (9th, 16.6), total defense (12th, 308.2), rushing defense (14th, 112.5), turnover margin (14th, 0.7), and pass efficiency defense (17th, 116.0).
Defensive end A.J. Epenesa earned multiple All-America honors, first-team All-Big Ten recognition, and was the defensive MVP of the Holiday Bowl win over Southern California in 2019. Defensive backs Michael Ojemudia and Geno Stone each earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Epenesa and Stone, both juniors in 2019, declared for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Epenesa was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft (Buffalo), while Ojemudia was selected in the third round by Denver and Stone was taken by Baltimore in the seventh round. In addition to the three draft selections, linebacker Kristian Welch (Baltimore) and tackle Cedrick Lattimore (Seattle) signed free agent contracts immediately following the draft. Sixteen Iowa defensive backs coached by Parker have been selected in the NFL draft.
Iowa, in 2018, ranked seventh nationally in total defense (293.6), eighth in turnovers gained (27) 11th in scoring defense (17.8) and 12th in rushing defense (109.5). Iowa’s defense was second in the Big Ten in red zone defense and third in total sacks (35).
Hooker earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and second-team All-America recognition and was named Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten. Epenesa earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and defensive end Anthony Nelson was named to the second team.
Hooker declared for the NFL following his junior season and was selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft (Tennessee), along with junior defensive lineman Anthony Nelson, who was also a fourth round selection (Tampa).
The Hawkeye defense led the nation with 21 interceptions in 2017, led by defensive back Josh Jackson, who led the nation individually with eight interceptions to match Iowa’s single-season record. Jackson and linebacker Josey Jewell each earned unanimous consensus All-America honors. The Hawkeyes ranked 17th in the nation in scoring defense (19.9) and matched a school record with four interception return touchdowns.
Jackson, in his first year as a starter, also led the nation in passes defended, ranked second in interception return yards and return touchdowns, and ranked fourth in pass break-ups. He had two interception returns for touchdowns and tied Iowa’s single-game record with three interceptions in a 55-24 win over third-ranked Ohio State.
Jewell led the Big Ten in tackles for the second time in three seasons (he was second as a junior) and ranked fourth in the nation in tackles per game (11.3). He was named the Big Ten Conference linebacker and defensive Player of the Year, while Jackson was named Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year. Jewell also earned the Lott IMPACT Trophy and was a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy, while Jackson was a finalist for the Thorpe Award.
Jackson declared for the 2018 NFL Draft following his junior season and was a second round selection of the Green Bay Packers. Jewell was a fourth round selection of the Denver Broncos.
Jewell also led the Hawkeye defense in 2016, along with All-America defensive back Desmond King. The Hawkeyes ranked 13th in the nation in scoring defense and red zone defense, 19th in pass efficiency defense, and 23rd in total defense.
The Hawkeyes posted a perfect 12-0 regular season record in 2015, winning the West Division of the Big Ten Conference. Iowa participated in the 2016 Rose Bowl Game and the 2015 Big Ten Championship and ended the season in the top 10 in the final national rankings.
Iowa’s most recent bowl game invitations include the 2022 Citrus Bowl, 2020 Music City Bowl, 2019 Holiday Bowl, 2019 Outback Bowl, 2017 Outback Bowl, 2016 Rose Bowl Game, 2015 TaxSlayer Bowl and 2014 Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes have ranked in the final top 10 of both major polls five times in the past 20 seasons.
Iowa has appeared in 12 January bowl games since 2001 and has recorded January bowl wins over Florida (2004 Outback), Louisiana State (2005 Capital One), South Carolina (2009 Outback), Georgia Tech (2010 Orange), and Mississippi State (2019 Outback).
Iowa has won 167 games over the past 20 seasons, including 103 Big Ten games. Along with the 2021 and 2015 division titles, the Hawkeyes earned a share of the Big Ten title in both 2002 and 2004 and tied for second in 2009. Iowa has finished in the Big Ten’s first division in 19 of the past 21 years.
The play of the defense has been a key part of Iowa’s success. King earned first team All-Big Ten honors in both 2015 and 2016 and was a unanimous consensus All-American in 2015. King was a fifth round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Iowa led the Big Ten and ranked 10th in the nation with 19 interceptions in 2015, with four of those being returned for touchdowns. The Hawkeyes were also among the national leaders in pass break-ups (ninth), turnover margin (11th), turnovers gained (13th), and rushing defense (15th).
Iowa ranked second in the Big Ten and seventh nationally in pass defense in 2014 with a defensive line-up that included three new linebackers and two first-year starters in the secondary. Seven Hawkeye defensive players earned all-Big Ten recognition.
The Hawkeyes collected eight wins in 2013, including a 5-3 Big Ten record to tie for second in the Legends Division. Iowa earned a spot in the 2014 Outback Bowl behind a defense that ranked among the national leaders in total defense (sixth), first downs allowed (seventh) pass defense (ninth), scoring defense (ninth), pass efficiency defense (17th) and rushing defense (19th).
Cornerback B.J. Lowery, a first team selection, was one of eight Hawkeye defensive players to earn All-Big Ten recognition in 2013, while King was named to several All-Freshman honor teams in his first college season.
Following the 2012 season, Hyde was named the recipient of the Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten Conference, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors. Hyde was selected by Green Bay in the fifth round of the NFL Draft and has had eight very productive seasons in the NFL with Green Bay and Buffalo.
Iowa’s secondary in 2011 was led by senior Shaun Prater, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second straight season, while Hyde earned second team honors. Prater was selected by Cincinnati in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, while Jordan Bernstine was selected by Washington in the seventh round.
The defensive secondary played a key role in Iowa’s success in 2010. Iowa was second in the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense (115.1) and interceptions (19). Iowa tied for 11th in the nation in interceptions, returning four thefts for touchdowns. Prater and safety Tyler Sash were both named first-team All-Big Ten, while Brett Greenwood earned second team honors and Hyde was honorable mention.
Sash started the final 34 games of his career and ranks fifth in career interceptions. He declared for the NFL following his junior season in 2010 and was a sixth round selection of the New York Giants. Sash earned a Super Bowl ring in his rookie season with the Giants in 2011.
In 2009, Iowa ranked third in the nation in pass efficiency defense and fourth in pass defense, leading the Big Ten in both categories. The Hawkeyes tied for fifth nationally with 21 interceptions while ranking eighth in scoring defense and 10th in total defense. Sash and cornerback Amari Spievey both earned first-team All-Big Ten recognition, and Greenwood was a second team selection. Spievey declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season in 2009 and was selected in the third round by the Detroit Lions.
In 2008, Iowa ranked fourth in the nation while tying a school record with 23 interceptions. The Hawkeyes led the Big Ten and ranked fifth nationally in pass efficiency defense (98.3) and scoring defense (13.0). Spievey earned second team all-conference honors, while Bradley Fletcher and Greenwood claimed honorable mention recognition. Fletcher was selected by St. Louis in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft.
Under Parker’s direction, safety Bob Sanders became the ninth Iowa player to earn first team all-Big Ten honors for three seasons (2001, 2002, and 2003). Sanders earned second team All-America honors in 2003 and was taken by Indianapolis in the second round of the 2004 NFL Draft. He ranks 11th in career tackles (348). Sanders earned All-Pro recognition with the Colts in 2005 and was selected to the Pro Bowl. He was a key contributor again in 2006 as the Colts won the Super Bowl. He was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2007 and was again an All-Pro selection.
Senior cornerback Charles Godfrey led the Iowa secondary in 2007, recording five interceptions and 65 tackles. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors. Godfrey was selected in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, being selected by the Carolina Panthers. He enjoyed an eight-year NFL career.
In 2006, senior safeties Marcus Paschal and Miguel Merrick combined for 149 tackles to lead the Hawkeye secondary. Paschal was a second team all-Big Ten selection and signed a free agent contract with Philadelphia. Merrick signed a free agent contract with San Diego.
In 2005, senior cornerback Antwan Allen was the only player in the nation to start in four straight January bowl games. He ended his career with 235 tackles and eight interceptions. Jovon Johnson, at the opposite corner, also started throughout his career. He ranks third in career interceptions (17) and had 181 career tackles. Johnson played with the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Jets in the NFL before a productive career in the Canadian Football League. He was the CFL’s Most Outstanding Defensive Player in 2011, becoming the first defensive back to win the award. He is a two-time CFL All-Star.
Safeties Derek Pagel and Sean Considine joined the Iowa program as walk-ons and earned their way into the starting line-up. Each helped the Hawkeyes win a Big Ten title as seniors and both were NFL Draft selections. Pagel earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2002 was selected in the fifth round of the 2003 draft. Considine was a fourth round selection in 2005 after earning honorable mention All-Big Ten recognition. He joined the Baltimore Ravens in 2012 and played a key role on special teams for the Super Bowl champions.
In 1999, Iowa’s secondary was led by the play of safety Matt Bowen. Bowen led the team in tackles as both a junior and senior. He was voted second-team All-Big Ten and was a sixth round selection of the St. Louis Rams in the NFL Draft. Bowen played several seasons in the NFL (Washington and Buffalo) following his college career.
Parker was the defensive backfield coach at Toledo for 11 seasons prior to joining the Iowa staff. During his tenure at Toledo, Parker coached 10 all-conference selections and helped the Rockets win conference division championships in 1997 and 1998. Three of his Toledo players, Darren Anderson, Clarence Love and Kelly Herndon, went on to play in the NFL. Anderson and Love were NFL Draft selections, while Herndon signed as a free agent and played in the 2006 Super Bowl with Seattle. In 1998, Toledo ranked 19th in the nation in scoring defense.
Toledo won Mid-American Conference championships in 1990 and 1995 and competed in the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl. Toledo ranked 12th in the nation in total defense in 1990 and ninth in pass efficiency defense and 11th in rushing defense in 1992. In 1995 Toledo completed an undefeated season and was ranked 22nd in the final UPI poll and 24th in the CNN poll after leading the nation in turnover margin. Toledo also finished second to perennial power Marshall twice when Parker was a member of the Rocket staff.
Parker served as a graduate assistant coach for one year at Michigan State. He was on the Spartan staff in 1987 when MSU won the Big Ten title and defeated Southern California in the 1988 Rose Bowl.
Phil was a standout defensive back at Michigan State, earning first team all-Big Ten honors in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Parker was named defensive MVP at Michigan State in 1983 and 1985 and was invited to the Hula Bowl following his senior season. During his MSU career the Spartans competed in the 1984 Cherry Bowl and the 1985 All-American Bowl. Parker was named Most Valuable Player in the Cherry Bowl.
Parker earned his B.S. degree from Michigan State in 1986.
Parker was born March 13, 1963, in Lorain, Ohio. Phil and his wife, Sandy, have two children, Tyler and Paige.
Parker’s Coaching Career
School – Position, Years
Iowa – Defensive Coordinator/Defensive Backs, 2013-present
Iowa – Defensive Coordinator, 2012
Iowa – Defensive Backs, 1999-2011
Toledo – DB, 1988-98
Michigan State – Graduate Assistant, 1987