Norm Parker paid a visit to the Des Moines metro on Wednesday night and several hundred Hawkeye fans turned out to wish him well in retirement.
I’d say close to 500 fans packed into the Seven Flags Event Center in Clive for the Annual February football event. In most years, this is a recruiting gathering, where an Iowa assistant coach breaks down the recent commitments and takes a few questions from the fans. I think the most people I have seen at that event has been around 200.
Wednesday night had a different feel, more like the Polk County I-Club’s Spring Football banquet which routinely has 1,000 or more attendees. I was fortunate enough to emcee this event and Norm and I were seated in comfortable chairs up on the stage, so it had a ‘Roy Firestone’ fireside chat feel.
Norm was on from the drop and spun several memorable stories, complete with some gut busting one liners.
ON GREENWAY & HODGE: Talked about how Chad Greenway was the most energetic person he had been around and said Chad told him he had never taken a nap. “You don’t take naps on the pig farm.” Also retold his story about how Greenway and Abdul Hodge taught him some important life lessons…how Greenway was from the farm and Hodge from the city yet they were best friends, in each other’s weddings and neither one of them ever saw a white person or a black person staring back at them; they saw their buddy.
ON BOB SANDERS: “Bob was like if you took someone who was really built and six-feet tall and smooshed them down into a smaller frame. He had guns. He was Bullet Bob. He might not have always known which direction to go, but he was gonna get there fast.” Retold the story about how nobody recruited Bob, and Kirk Ferentz’s high school coach Joe Moore was Sanders’ high school coach and told Kirk ‘If you don’t take him, you’re crazy. So we took him.” Norm said one of the most memorable plays during his time at Iowa was when a Sanders hit knocked the helmet off a Penn State player.
MEMORABLE PLAY: He said when he was a coach for Michigan State, Iowa ran a sweep with Nick Bell right at the Michigan State sideline. He said he was on the line of scrimmage and was trying to back away as the play was coming right at him, but that the people behind him were trying to move back and were pushing the people ahead of them to get out of the way. Bell slammed into him and knocked him out. “I never stood on the line of scrimmage-extended, ever again.”
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ON MATT ROTH: I asked Norm if Matt Roth was really crazy. “Well, he’s not crazy enough to get thrown into the asylum. But once he got there, they’d never let him out.”
ON IOWANS: “We don’t have any oceans here in Iowa, we don’t really have things that stand out. But I think that is a strength because it just means we have each other. So the people and what they have in common is what stands out.”
ON IOWA FOOTBALL: “We aren’t sexy. You don’t come here to ski; you go to Colorado. You don’t come here to sit on the beach; you go to Miami. If you want to play football, you come to Iowa.”
ON MICHIGAN: I asked him if Iowa’s 34-9 win over Michigan in 2002 had any special significance for him, being a native Michigander. “I liked it. A lot,” Parker said. Then he told this story. “Two soldiers were captured by the enemy on the field of battle. One was from Michigan, the other from Iowa. The captors asked the Michigan soldier ‘What one thing would you like before we kill you?’ and the Michigan man said ‘I’d just love to hear the greatest fight song of all time played once more; Hail to the Victors.’ The captors then asked the Iowa soldier what he wanted most, to which he replied ‘I want you to kill me first.'” The place erupted…and then Norm said ‘I think we’ve beaten them three times in a row,right?’
Norm also added that he thinks Iowa should blitz more on defense…then said if he was playing with your money in Vegas, he’d blitz with your money. But it’s his money, and therefore you don’t blitz as much.
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Norm told me he still goes to the football complex each day and does some work. He expects to be around there another year or so, but he does not attend coaches meetings or anything like that. “I don’t want to be one of those guys who overshadows other people. This is Phil Parker’s defense now, it’s not mine.”
It was a great night and there were so many laughs. It was one of my favorite I-Club events I have ever attended, all because of the man with a thousand stories who has created a thousand great Hawkeye memories, Norm Parker.