SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Norm Parker, a son of Big Ten football, sat in the splendor of a glorious Phoenix afternoon Tuesday, his coaching career ticking down to literally hours, and talked of his final game.
The Oklahoma-Iowa Insight Bowl.
Dismiss its import if you wish. But Iowa's 70-year-old retiring defensive coordinator is fired up.
“I've never played against Oklahoma,” Parker said. “As a kid, I always admired Oklahoma. It's a thrill to play Oklahoma.”
If the Sooners can be as jacked playing for OU as Parker seems to be coaching against OU, the Big Red should be OK.
But don't sleep on Iowa. The Hawkeyes appear to be zoned in out here in the desert, and they've even got a cause for which to play.
Send their beloved coach out with a victory.
Parker, defensive coordinator for all 13 years of the Kirk Ferentz era, is the Gomer Jones of Iowa football. Or the Bobby Proctor, if you prefer later Sooner vintage. A trusty lieutenant who defines stability and tradition.
Iowa's defenders, especially, want to see Parker go out in style.
“We want to send him out right,” said senior linebacker Tyler Nielsen. “He's deserving of going out right.”
Defensive tackle Mike Daniels said he was getting emotional even before Parker announced his retirement a couple of weeks ago.
“Coach Parker means everything,” Daniels said. “Even the fact I was graduating, knowing he would never coach me again, was hard to swallow.”
Parker is old school, as you might have guessed, and shrugs off such sentimentality.
“The game has nothing to do with me,” Parker said. “I'm just along for the ride. It's been a nice ride.”
Literally. Parker is sitting in a cushy golf cart, from which he often coaches since the amputation of his right foot in September 2010, the result of diabetes.
Strange that a coach who has spent 33 of the last 40 seasons coaching in the Big Ten — at Minnesota and Illinois and Michigan State and now Iowa — will conduct his final practice at Chaparral High School, which has outdoor student lockers, and coach his final game at a place called Sun Devil Stadium.