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Old 12-29-2006, 07:51 AM   #1
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Default Parker: college backup to Steelers MVP

Parker goes from college backup to Steelers MVP

By The Associated Press
Friday, December 29, 2006


Willie Parker, a little-used player at North Carolina for most of his college career, is only the fourth running back chosen by his teammates as the Pittsburgh Steelers' most valuable player.

Parker, selected last week for his first Pro Bowl, is the NFL's sixth-leading rusher with 1,360 yards. If he gains at least 40 yards Sunday against Cincinnati, he will join Jerome Bettis and Barry Foster as the only running backs in team history with at least one 1,400-yard season.

"I'm speechless right now," Parker said Thursday, shortly after he easily won the players' vote. "When they told me I was the MVP, I thought, 'The Willie Parker story just keeps getting better.'"

Parker, an undrafted rookie free agent in 2004, became a starter last season and rushed for 1,202 yards — or more yards than he had in his four-year college career. Bettis, a six-time 1,000-yard rusher with Pittsburgh, is the only Steelers player to gain as many yards in successive seasons as Parker's 2,562.

Parker has the only 200-yard games in the NFL this season, gaining a club-record 223 yards against Cleveland on Dec. 7 and 213 yards against New Orleans on Nov. 12.

Because Parker ran for only 181 yards during his senior season at North Carolina in 2003, Steelers coach Bill Cowher began looking for flaws in his game once he reported to training camp.

"You get guys like that and the first question is, 'OK, what's the hole? Why didn't this guy play? There has to be a reason,'" Cowher said. "Here I am three years later asking the same question."

Parker quickly caught Cowher's attention because of his exceptional speed and ability to turn a corner. The 5-foot-10, 210-pound Parker's quickness is an unusual element for an offense that has traditionally relied on big backs such as Bettis and Hall of Famer Franco Harris.

Parker, Harris (1972), Foster (1992) and Bettis (1996, 1997 and 2000) are the only running backs selected as the Steelers MVP. The award began in 1969, Chuck Noll's first season as coach.

Bettis, who retired after the Steelers won the Super Bowl in February, aided Parker's development in 2004 and 2005, helping him learn the nuances of the NFL and what it takes to be a successful running back.

Parker said last week he misses Bettis, even if it hasn't shown up on the field.

"He just gave me a blueprint and told me it's up to me to follow it," Parker said. "I'm trying my best to follow but, as you know, we're two different type of runners so I had to tweak his blueprint and go my own way."

Last season, Bettis often replaced Parker whenever the Steelers neared the goal line. Duce Staley was expected to have that role this season, until Parker showed he could handle both the starting and short-yardage roles. His 14 touchdowns are one short of Louis Lipps' 1985 team record.

"Jerome was leaving and the talk was, 'Who's the next back?'" Parker said. "A lot of people still doubt me, but that just gives me fuel to the fire. ... A lot of people still don't think I can be an every-down back, and that motivates me to be the best I can be."

Wide receiver Hines Ward credits Cowher with developing Parker.

"He saw something in Willie other people didn't see," Ward said. "He's a Pro Bowler now. He's a great story. Nobody expected much out of him and he became a Pro Bowler — and a lot of it has to do with coach Cowher."

The Steelers' MVPs, as chosen by their teammates:

1969, WR Roy Jefferson. 1970, DT Joe Greene. 1971, LB Andy Russell. 1972, Harris. 1973, WR Ron Shanklin. 1974, S Glen Edwards. 1975, CB Mel Blount. 1976, LB Jack Lambert. 1977, QB Terry Bradshaw. 1978, Bradshaw. 1979, WR John Stallworth.

1980, S Donnie Shell. 1981, Lambert. 1982, CB Dwayne Woodruff. 1983, K Gary Anderson. 1984, Stallworth. 1985, WR Louis Lipps. 1986, LB Bryan Hinkle. 1987, LB Mike Merriweather. 1988, LB David Little, CB Rod Woodson. 1989, Lipps.

1990, Woodson. 1991, LB Greg Lloyd. 1992, Foster. 1993, Woodson. 1994, Lloyd. 1995, QB Neil O'Donnell. 1996, 1997, Bettis. 1998, 1999, LB Levon Kirkland.

2000, Bettis. 2001, QB Kordell Stewart. 2002, Ward, LB Joey Porter. 2003, Ward. 2004, LB James Farrior. 2005, NT Casey Hampton, Ward.

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_486253.html
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Old 12-29-2006, 07:57 AM   #2
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Default Re: Parker: college backup to Steelers MVP

Willie Parker voted Steelers MVP articles from the TRIB and PPG:

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06363/749805-66.stm

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pitt.../s_486184.html
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Old 12-29-2006, 08:11 AM   #3
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Default Re: Parker: college backup to Steelers MVP

That really says something about our front office, actually the Willie Parker deal was just timing, he was in the right place at the right time.
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Old 12-30-2006, 07:02 AM   #4
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Default Re: Parker: college backup to Steelers MVP

Anyone want to wonder why Bunting is gone at UNC? If he doesn't play a guy like Parker, no wonder he is out of a job.
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