Norm Parker retires after 13 years with Hawkeyes


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The Iowa football program announced Sunday evening that longtime defensive coordinator Norm Parker will retire following the Hawkeyes' appearance in the 2011 Insight Bowl.

Parker, 70, came to Iowa in 1999 alongside head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe.

"I would like to personally thank [Athletics Director] Gary Barta, Kirk Ferentz, the coaches, and players at Iowa, along with the fantastic fans," he said in a release. "It has been a great time, one that myself and my entire family greatly appreciate."

The Hawkeye defense under Parker was routinely among the country's best — although the 2011 season has deviated from that trend somewhat.

The Black and Gold finished in the top 10 nationally in rushing defense five times in Parker's 13 years, and it was in the top 10 in scoring defense in three of the last four. Parker coached 34 future NFL players while at Iowa, not counting the Hawkeyes on the 2011 team who could advance to the next level.

"Norm's contributions to our team the past 13 years are deeply appreciated, and he has had a tremendous impact on our program," Ferentz said in a statement. "As I have said publicly on many occasions, Norm is a superb defensive coach and has served as a strong role model and mentor for all of our players and our entire staff."

The Hawkeyes struggled at times defensively this year, finishing in the bottom half of the Big Ten in each of the four major defensive categories. But that didn't stop six members of Iowa's defense from being named All-Big Ten in November. Nor did it deter the American Football Coaches Association from honoring Parker with its Assistant Coach of the Year award late last month.

A series of health issues prevented Parker from coaching from the field his last two years with the Hawkeyes. His right foot was amputated in September 2010 because of diabetes complications. He had previously been admitted to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics because of back pain and had had two toes removed.

But he worked his way back so that he was able to coach from the press box during Iowa's 27-24 win over Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl. He was fitted with a prosthetic and learned to drive a golf cart by using a stick to press the pedals.

And he never lost his sense of humor, O'Keefe said; speaking before the team's spring game in April, the offensive coordinator remembered a conversation he had with Parker about the weather.

"He said, 'Yeah, it was so damned 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 didn't appear comfortable talking to the press about his various health problems — he said he felt embarrassed by the attention at the team's media day in August.

The native of Hazel Park, Mich., lettered in football four times at Eastern Michigan, which was also the school that gave him his first college coaching job — he tutored the Eagles' offensive line in 1968. He spent time at Wake Forest (1969-71), Minnesota (1972-76), Illinois (1977-79), and East Carolina (1980-82) before settling in at Michigan State. He helped the Spartans go to seven bowl games in his 12 years in East Lansing, Mich.

He coached at Vanderbilt from 1995-97 before coming to Iowa City with Ferentz and O'Keefe.

"My wife, Linda, and all the members of our family, were very pleased to be members of the Hawkeye family," Parker said. "We truly enjoyed our time here. After 48 years of doing something I love, it is time to enjoy some time with the grandkids."

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