By Rob Rossi
Sunday, November 13, 2005
The somewhat familiar story of Willie Parker goes like this: He didn't start in college at North Carolina, wasn't drafted into the NFL and caught a break with the Steelers only because of his mind-bending speed. From those humble beginnings to this: Parker is the leading rusher for the NFL team that relies on running the football the most. In fact, he might even be the Steelers' most valuable player this season; if not, he's on the short list of candidates for such a title. Talk about surprises! Parker is as taken aback by his good fortunes as anybody.
Q: How many pairs of shoes do you have for each game?
A: About three or four. You do what you have to do, you know?
Q: So, big year for you, huh?
A: I really haven't even had time to sit back and think about how far I've come, but it feels real good just being a part of this team. We're winning. Where else would I rather be?
Q: Could you have even fathomed a season such as the one you're having?
A: Man, I'm not going to lie -- I couldn't even have imagined this. I always knew I was capable of doing this. I always knew I was capable of fighting for what I get. But no, I couldn't have imagined this in any way.
Q: Are you surprised more by your productivity or the opportunity to be productive?
A: I'm blessed for the opportunity, but I always knew I could do this if given the right chance. We're so deep in the backfield that I didn't figure I'd get much of a chance to show what I could do, so I knew I had to make the most of my opportunity and leave the rest up to Coach (Bill Cowher).
Q: Those No. 39 Steelers jerseys are hot right now, right?
A: Yeah, it's crazy. But be careful, please, not to jinx me by talking too much about it.
Q: Can't we get you a better nickname than "Fast Willie"?
A: I like that nickname, it's easy to remember. Plus, I am pretty fast.
Q: No kidding. How did you get so fast?
A: I don't know... I guess most people are born with it, but I wasn't. I have to work at it all the time.
Q: How so?
A: Well, I can't tell you my secrets.
Q: Defenses aren't really catching you, but are they catching on to your speed?
A: I don't really think so. It surprises everybody a little bit, I guess. Sometimes when I'm running by a guy I can tell that he doesn't expect running backs to be this fast, but I'm probably more proud of my toughness when running the ball than I am my speed.
Q: Have you ever experienced anything like the hype surrounding Ben Roethlisberger's injury?
A: No, not even close. I guess it shows you just how popular he is around this city. You always hear about the Steelers being king in Pittsburgh, but you don't really understand it until something like what happens to Ben actually happens.
Q: What's a reasonable final number to expect from you this season?
A: One... like, one more win. Doesn't matter to me what I run for as long as we get to the Super Bowl.