Norm Parker a model of determination


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Norm Parker’s most revealing moment Wednesday didn’t have anything to do with football.
Instead, it had everything to do with Parker’s own determination.

Aided by a cane, the 69-year-old Iowa defensive coordinator slowly strolled into the players’ auditorium at the Hayden Fry Football Complex for his press conference. The 30-foot trip took him about a minute. Parker sat down in front of about two dozen media members, his wispy white hair sitting on his forehead in a natural part.

“What are we talking about?” he asked jokingly.

A half-hour of questions and answers later, Parker needed help from offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe to get to his feet. That required a carefully timed “one-two-three” count and lift from O’Keefe.

“They got a lot of pictures of that,” Parker quipped as camera shutters whispered.

Moments later, O’Keefe summed up the scene quite aptly.

“That’s tough right there,” O’Keefe said. “He’s tough.”

Parker, who is entering his 13th year as the Hawkeyes’ defensive coordinator, had his right foot amputated in September 2010 because of diabetes-related complications. The procedure came after he was originally admitted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on Sept. 10 for back pain. Parker previously had had two left toes amputated.

Besides Iowa’s 2010 opener against Eastern Illinois, Parker missed much of the season while in the hospital and during rehabilitation, finally returning to full-time duties for the Insight Bowl against Missouri last December.

On Wednesday, he reaffirmed his commitment to remain at the helm of the Hawkeye defense.
If anything, the time he was forced to spend away from the program last year made him sure of it.

“You know, I never doubted it,” Parker said. “But it reconfirmed some thoughts that, hey, this is where I belong. This is what I like to do.

“You know, I mean, this is how much I would miss it if I wasn’t there all the time.”

Parker iterated that passion and spoke about the enjoyment he took from preparing for the Insight Bowl. Missouri — which had averaged better than 400 yards of offense per game — managed 512 yards, but the Iowa defense held the Tigers to 24 points and forced NFL-bound quarterback Blaine Gabbert into two interceptions. The Hawkeyes won, 27-24.

“I enjoyed that. And our team worked hard,” Parker said. “When the team is working hard and everybody is doing his thing and they put a lot of effort into it and they had a lot of focus on it, that makes it fun.”

Certainly the last six months or so have been challenging for Parker, but it that hasn’t shown in his demeanor. Just ask O’Keefe.

The offensive coordinator recalled a conversation from a practice last week in which the two were discussing the weather. It was cold.

“And [Parker] said, ‘Yeah, it was so darned cold my [artificial] leg fell off,’ ” O’Keefe said. “And I’m like, ‘What?’

“… He didn’t even blink. He thought it was funny.”

Parker said he’s continually improving, but he’ll likely coach from the press box during games this fall.

Before the season starts, though, he has a different goal: Parker said he wants to play a round of golf by the summer’s end.

He said that the amputation would slow down his swing.

“For me, that’s good,” Parker said. “Because I don’t have a swing. I have a slap shot.”

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