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Old 12-14-2006, 12:38 AM   #1
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Default Parker the consummate pro

Parker the consummate pro

By Scott Brown
Thursday, December 14, 2006

He is called "Fast Willie," not "Slick Willie," and Willie Parker showed why the former was the more appropriate nickname for at least one day.

Given the opportunity to campaign for a trip to the Pro Bowl on Wednesday, Parker, instead, sidestepped talk that he is deserving to represent the AFC in the Feb. 10 game, which will be played in Honolulu.

"That's not a team award, so I kind of try to stay away from all of that," said Parker, who is third in the AFC in rushing yards (1,199) and rushing touchdowns (10). "A lot of people ask me in the street (about the Pro Bowl). I kind of go back toward the team. Individual accolades, that will take care of itself."

Parker has never been to Hawaii, but it's easy to see why he is more focused on the Steelers' upcoming trip to Charlotte, N.C.

Sunday's game against the Panthers represents a homecoming for Parker, who grew up in Clinton, N.C., and played his college ball at the University of North Carolina.

Even if his teammates had been allowed to select him on their Pro Bowl ballots, Parker would no doubt have lobbied for their tickets to Sunday's 1 p.m. game instead of their votes.

That is how much of a personal cheering section he is expecting at Bank of America Stadium.

When asked how many ticket requests he has gotten, Parker smiled and said, "a lot."

He will make a triumphant return to his home state considering he has twice rushed for more yards in a game this season than he did his senior year at North Carolina (181 yards) and is only the third back in Steelers' history to rush for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons.

"I couldn't be happier for the guy," wide receiver Hines Ward said. "He's one of the first guys here running and working out. It's just a great story."

Ward has emerged as Parker's de facto campaign manager when it comes to the Pro Bowl.

"Why not Willie Parker? That's my question," said Ward, who has been to four Pro Bowls. "He's been just as productive as any other back in the AFC. Our record isn't where we want it to be, but that shouldn't take away from Willie's accomplishment."

That could be a factor in the voting -- balloting from NFL coaches and players and fans is equally weighted -- said ESPN analyst Joe Theismann.


Up for grabs
Three running backs are elected to the Pro Bowl team in each conference. San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson and Kansas City's Larry Johnson appear to be locks for two of those spots. Here are the top candidates for the other one.
Att. Yds. Avg. TD*
Willie Parker 264 1,119 4.5 13
Fred Taylor 222 1,083 4.9 5
Rudi Johnson 276 1,054 3.8 10
*Total touchdowns


Parker and Jacksonville's Fred Taylor are the favorites to join LaDainian Tomlinson and Larry Johnson as the three running backs on the AFC's roster.

Parker has twice as many rushing touchdowns as Taylor and has 13 total touchdowns. Taylor is averaging 4.9 yards per carry compared to 4.5 for Parker.

The Jaguars, meanwhile, are 8-5, while the Steelers are 6-7.

With two players that are so close in terms of merit, Theismann said, Taylor could get more votes simply because Jacksonville has had the better season.

He also could get votes because he has never been to a Pro Bowl even though the ninth-year back has rushed for more than 1,200 yards in a season five times and has almost 9,500 career rushing yards.

"There's no question Fred Taylor has played this year at a Pro Bowl level," said Theismann, the color analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Football. "And in my opinion, Willie Parker is a Pro Bowl player."

He will find out Tuesday if he is one officially.

Not that Parker sounds like he'll lose any sleep over the voting.

"It's out of my hands," he said.

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Old 12-14-2006, 06:34 AM   #2
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Default Re: Parker the consummate pro

Parker is a true team player...he really deserves to go to Hawaii this year.
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Old 12-14-2006, 10:26 AM   #3
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Default Re: Parker the consummate pro

Great article, Great attitiude. Go Willie!

Thanks to MeanJoe for surprising me with my new sig.
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