Aug. 16, 2010
By MICHELE DANNO
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- It was a bittersweet goodbye for University of Iowa defensive backs coach Phil Parker when junior cornerback Amari Speivey was selected in the third round of the 2010 NFL draft, leaving big cleats to fill on the Hawkeye defense.
This is not the first time Parker has watched as one of his student-athletes marched out of Kinnick Stadium into the frontlines of the big leagues.
Entering his 23rd season as a Division I assistant football coach (11 years at Iowa, 10 at Toledo, and one at Michigan State), Parker carries an impressive resume, winning Big Ten titles and sending a total of 15 players to the NFL.
During Parker's tenure with the Hawkeyes, nine defensive backs have been drafted, and three have signed as free agents. At Toledo, two of his athletes were drafted, and one signed as a free agent.
Parker's troops have included a range of NFL notables such as strong safety Bob Sanders, who led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2006 and was named the league's Defensive Player of the Year in 2007.
Working alongside Sanders, walk-on Sean Considine transformed into a starting safety under Parker's tutelage and helped lead the Hawkeyes to a Big Ten title during his senior season. Considine was then drafted in 2005 by the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 2008, Charles Godfrey was drafted in the third round to the Carolina Panthers, where he has been a consistent starter since his rookie season.
Defensive coordinator Norm Parker (no relation to Phil) said much of his players' success both at Iowa and beyond can be attributed to Phil Parker and his experience playing defensive back at Michigan State University, where he earned first-team all-Big Ten honors from 1983-1985.
"Phil was an intent, hardworking player, and he demanded that everyone around him play hard. Now he demands that his players play hard. The players are a reflection of Phil."
UI defensive coordinator
"Phil was an intent, hardworking player, and he demanded that everyone around him play hard," Norm Parker said. "Now he demands that his players play hard. The players are a reflection of Phil."
And Phil Parker reflects professionalism.
From his example, athletes learn that if they ever hope to play professional ball, they must first act, dress, and perform professionally. Phil is no pushover when it comes to disciplining his men -- both on and off the field.
"I'm sure (coach Parker) could be a Marine if he wanted to," redshirt sophomore Jason White said with a laugh. "He always stresses little details, from things like footwork, to dress attire, to tucking your shirt in, to standing up straight -- really just looking professional at all times,"
Parker also makes sure to keep his involvement with his players professional -- they always know who the boss is.
"We have a coach-player relationship," junior Jordan Bernstine said. "He's not there to be our friend, but to help the team."
This includes building the Iowa squad by attracting strong recruits -- a feat made easier due to the Parker's reputation of producing NFL-caliber defensemen.
Parker said he cannot take all the credit, that his athletes come to Iowa with the instincts for being successful defensive players, and he builds on that.
"Guys that come here are smart players," Parker said. "They give a great effort, they're tough, and they develop into good players their third and fourth years. That's the way we run the program."
"Sash and Greenwood can visually see a play develop over time, so they put themselves in the right spot," Parker said, comparing them to the Sanders-Considine duo. "Now they see it the way I see it, and it makes it a lot easier for us."
Still, Sash said his firm grasp of the game comes from his work with Parker -- noting he taught Sash everything from "basic football" to the "ins and outs" of the game.
With Sash's impressive performance during preseason and growing recognition throughout the league, he could be one of Parker's next men to see some NFL action.
After devoting nearly three decades to the sport, Parker said it's watching players such as Sash transform into high-caliber athletes that keeps his passion for football alive. He called it a "great honor" to watch his athletes get drafted, adding that he hopes they take what they learned at Iowa and apply it to their professional careers.
"My wife asks me all the time, `what do you do it for?'" Parker said. "It's the joy in seeing my kids succeed. Seeing a kid who comes here not even knowing how to back-peddle and watching him develop to win a Big Ten title or go to the NFL -- that's probably the best."