Phil Parker promoted in Iowa overhaul

Phil Parker will replace Norm Parker, Darrell Wilson and Reese Morgan will take over new assignments as well

Phil Parker has been named Iowa's defensive coordinator, replacing Norm Parker. Phil Parker has coached under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa for 13 seasons. Before that, he was the secondary coach at Toledo for 11 seasons. (Gazette file)
Phil Parker has been named Iowa's defensive coordinator, replacing Norm Parker. Phil Parker has coached under Kirk Ferentz at Iowa for 13 seasons. Before that, he was the secondary coach at Toledo for 11 seasons. (Gazette file)

Defensive backs coach Phil Parker has been promoted to defensive coordinator, Iowa announced in a release Tuesday.

In addition to Parker's promotion, Darrell Wilson and Reese Morgan will take over new assignments on the Iowa staff.

Wilson, who has served as Iowa’s linebackers coach for the past 10 seasons, will coach defensive backs. Morgan, a member of the staff for the past 12 seasons, will move from coaching the offensive line to the defensive line.

“Phil, Darrell and Reese have all done an outstanding job in our program for a significant period of time,” Ferentz said in a statement. “I am confident they will have a very positive effect on our team as we transition forward.”

Now, offensive coordinator, offensive line and and linebackers are open. Ferentz has a news conference scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday.

LeVar Woods, who has served as Iowa's interim D-line coach, could take over at linebackers, a position he played at Iowa and in the NFL.

During his early years at Iowa, Parker was the "yeller" of the staff. His sideline fireworks didn't blow his players up, however. The message was sent and received.


"It's a lot of tough love," senior strong safety Miguel Merrick said in a 2006 story. "As a freshman, you don't think he likes you. As you get older, you definitely understand where he's coming from and the things he expects from you."

You will occasionally see Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz lose it on the sidelines, mostly directed at officials. Parker can be a forehead vein in headphones. He used to be, at least.

"No question," Ferentz said. "Phil coaches hard. He played with an aggressive personality, I can attest to that. He coaches with one, too."

Fans want fire. Parker knows how to make that happen.

"Whenever you mess up, you know you messed up and coach Parker is going . . . to make you aware that he knows you messed up," Merrick said.

Parker, 48, has put 12 former Hawkeyes in the NFL. Cornerback Shaun Prater will make it 13 when he's drafted in April. Safety Jordan Bernstine could raise that to 14 if he makes a squad. He participated in the NFLPA all-star game on January 21.

Parker's fiery style has produced.

"Yeah, he yells. That's what we like about him," cornerback Charles Godfrey said. "He gets after you to make you a better player, so that's a good thing."

Parker was a three-time first-team all-Big Ten safety at Michigan State (1983-85).

"Phil was one of the toughest players we ever had," said former Michigan State coach George Perles, MSU's head coach from 1983 to 1994. "He threw his body around like nobody I've ever seen. He was as tough as any defensive back we ever had to the point where he hit people so hard he'd give himself a concussion. He had quite a few concussions."

The concussion thing became such an issue that MSU coaches never let Parker go full bore in practice. They fitted him with a helmet from the Naval Air Force.


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"What Phil teaches is something that's very difficult to teach and that's toughness," said Perles, who gave Parker his start in coaching as a graduate assistant in 1987. "Players learn to love him because they know he's working hard to make them better."

It's not all yelling. That's just what sticks out because it's out there on the sidelines in front of the 70,585 at Kinnick Stadium. There are "pal around" moments, "atta boy" times, in the locker room and during video sessions.

Parker makes sure his players know it's not personal and that the yells are for teaching and not punishment.

"Most of the guys back there (in the secondary) have really good mental toughness," Parker said in '06. "After a couple practices, you'd see why they have to have a thick skin.

"Don't worry about it, let it roll off. You go into the locker room afterward, you hit them up while they're changing clothes, taking showers, clowning around with them a little bit. They see the other side. It's just a game."

Iowa never hid Parker's style from recruits. It really should be noted, much of this material is from a 2006 story. Parker's tamed the sideline behavior at least a little bit.

"If you want to be patted on the back every day, every play, Phil's probably not the right guy for your deal," Ferentz said in '06. "The bottom line there is that he cares deeply about the players and they know that. Occasionally, they'll give it right back to him, too. I think he loves it."

Parker wasn't the primary contact when Iowa recruited Godfrey out of Baytown (Texas) Lee High School. But Parker made his way down for a visit. Godfrey didn't get a lot of sunshine pumped his way.


Other college recruiters told Godfrey he was going to start. He was the top defensive back on their list. They told him how great they thought he was.

"Coach Parker came in and said, 'Let's go watch some film,' " Godfrey said. "He watched film with me and didn't point out the good things. He pointed out the things I did wrong.

"That's what I wanted. I wanted somebody who was going to make me better."

Godfrey wanted the truth.

"The smart guys want to go with the truth," Godfrey said. "There are guys who just want to be pampered and want things to go their way. When things don't turn out their way, they think, 'I didn't know it was going to happen like this.'

"I wanted him to honest with me. I'll work for what I get."

Parker lets recruits see the all-Big Ten safety who didn't dance around when he returned punts. He returned the ball straight up the field, Perles said.

In turn, Parker is straight up with prospects.

"I tell them, don't come if you can't take it," Parker said. "It kind of eliminates some of the guys.

"We're a program that you're not going to be able to baby kids. It's hard to do that. This is a violent, physical football game. It's not a contact sport, it's a violent contact sport. Mentally, you've got to be able to take the pressure when it comes up."

Parker knows that failure on the field can dig deeper than any yelling he can dish out.

"You've got to be mentally tough. You can't crack under pressure," Parker said. "When I find out a kid has mental toughness, I like the kid.

"Nobody in the real world sees someone lose $250,000 dollars in business. They're on the front page, losing money. They just go on with their business. It's a little bit more visual embarrassment sometimes, when you get beat."


OK, defensive back recruit. You need to be mentally tough, you have that right? You have to give "100 percent hustle" and be physically tough. You have to come through in pressure situations, deciding which way to run and who to cover in less than one second.

You have to be able to take it, a bad play and a big yell from your coach.

"We knew it coming in that coach Parker is going to try to get the best out of you," Godfrey said. "One of the ways he does that is yells at you, but you know that it's a yell that tells you you need to correct this, you need to get better.

"There are no hard feelings about it. We love him for it."



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