CEDAR RAPIDS – He still has an office in the Iowa football operations building. He still watches ever game. He still wanders into film sessions on Sunday mornings to see what went right or wrong.
But there’s something that can’t be replicated in former Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker’s retirement: the postgame smiles.
“The thing that stands out the most is after you have a good win, the look on the players’ face,” Parker said. “I mean the smile on their face, where they knew they put a lot of effort into it and it worked and they knew they did something good.”
Parker retired after the 2011 season. He attended Iowa’s Linn County Spring Banquet where plenty of fans’ smiles filled The Hotel at Kirkwood Center. Current Hawkeye head basketball coach Fran McCaffery also attended the event aimed at thanking Cedar Rapids area fans.
“It’s really our way of coming up here and thanking our fans and connecting with them in a very personal way,” McCaffery said. “We rely on, in particular, folks from Cedar Rapids to get in their cars, regardless whether it’s snowing. Regardless of what our record is and support our team…It’s nothing short of amazing.”
Parker, who greeted fans from a chair, managed to be in very good spirits and health after battling diabetes for years and had to have his right foot amputated in September 2010.
“I’m upright,” Parker said. “I’m upright, a lot of guys aren’t. I’m doing all right.”
Parker spent 13 seasons with the Hawkeyes after stops at Vanderbilt, Michigan State, East Carolina, Minnesota and Wake Forest. The 71-year-old began his coaching career at Eastern Michigan in 1968.
In his first year out of the game, he migrated to the football offices as much as he could. He also watched every Iowa football game. But the taste of gameday isn’t one that can be found in an office or in front of a TV.
“The thing that’s hard is, unless you know exactly what the call is and exactly what supposed to be going on, it’s hard to just watch the game,” Parker said.
It wasn’t always easy watching the Hawkeyes stumble to a 4-8 record this season. But Parker pointed to injuries on the offensive line and in the backfield. He also optimistically looked at with exception of Penn State and Michigan, Iowa had a chance in the fourth quarter to reverse the losses into wins.
“That’s part of life. You’re not going to have ice cream sundaes every day,” Parker said. “Although we’d all like to.”
‘Everybody’s coming back’
McCaffery confirmed Thursday that every underclassman on his team will return next season.
When asked, the coach simply answered, “Everybody’s coming back, yup.”
He later elaborated on next year’s planwith current junior Devyn Marble, who drew NBA chatter in the preseason.
“We’ll move him around,” McCaffery said. “He’s a good shot he’ll be the one next year. He certainly performed extremely well at that position this year for us.”