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Old 12-22-2005, 05:00 PM   #1
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Default Parker closing in on 1,000

PITTSBURGH (AP) - Thirteen NFL running backs have rushed for 1,000 yards this season, and four are fewer than 100 yards away. Most share a common bond of college stardom, getting enormous money before playing their first NFL game, being a big name and a big deal long before they were pros.

Nine were first-round draft picks. Three more went in the second round. Only one in the group went as low as the sixth round.

Then there's Willie Parker, who needs 63 yards in his final two games to become only the sixth running back in the Pittsburgh Steelers' 73-season history with a 1,000-yard season.

First-round draft pick? He wasn't even the first back picked most Saturdays by his own college, spending all but a few games at North Carolina as a backup - barely getting 1,000 yards in his career. He had speed and strength, often outlifting the other backs in the weight room, but for some reason he didn't have what the Tar Heels wanted.

Dan Rooney Jr., the son of the Steelers' chairman and a team scout, remembered Parker from his starring days at Clinton (N.C.) High School and recommended signing him as an undrafted free agent.

Parker was as raw as could be in his first training camp in 2004, but his speed made such an impression on coach Bill Cowher that he made it through the roster cuts. The first time he got more than a few carries in a game, he ran for 102 yards against the Bills in the season finale.

When Jerome Bettis and Duce Staley got hurt in training camp this summer, Parker stepped in and gained 272 yards in the first two games. He's had only one 100-yard game since, but has never given back his job to two backs who have a combined 11 1,000-yard seasons between them.

All season, Parker has deflected credit for his success to the offensive line, the coaches' game plan or to Bettis and Staley for showing him the way. But now that 1,000 yards are so close, Parker acknowledges it would mean a lot personally.

"I can't say a lie and say it's not so,'' he said. "It's because of how I got here and the fact I haven't rushed for 1,000 yards since high school. Being in the elite role of runners like Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Edgerrin James, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jerome, it would be real good for me to get over the mark.''

Parker has always had the kind of turn-the-corner speed the Steelers have lacked at running back; as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said, "It's a lot of fun to just give him the ball and watch him run.''

What Parker is showing is that he also possesses perseverance, motivation and mental toughness, qualities not always found among first-round draft picks who have generally known little adversity in their pre-NFL careers.

Parker showed it again Sunday when, after getting benched the week before for fumbling for the third time in two games, he came back with a solid 81-yard game against the Vikings.

"Because of my parents, `I can't' wasn't allowed to be part of my dictionary,'' Parker said. "I'd be saying at North Carolina, `I can't take any more of this,' and some parents would have been like, `Give it up, you don't have to take this.' But they wouldn't let me leave, and I stuck it out. Now, if I'm ever a father, I'm going to tell my kids they can never use the words, `I can't.' You can do anything the next man can do.''

What's surprising about Parker's near-accomplishment is that, for a franchise long known for its power running game, the only Steelers running backs with 1,000-yard seasons are Bettis, Franco Harris, John Henry Johnson, Rocky Bleier and Barry Foster. Bleier and Foster did it only once each.

For Parker, it's a case of so few yards to go for a man who has come so far.

"Let me tell you a story that happened in high school,'' he said. "The two best teams in the state were in the same conference, and this other team beats us. We play them again in the regional, and they've already got their buses ordered and their T-shirts for going to state. So my team got a little fired up about that.

"We already knew we were the best team, and we beat them like 33-0. And the next day in the paper they said Willie Parker is only a junior, his team's not supposed to win this game,'' Parker said.

And how fitting is this? His high school team is nicknamed the Dark Horses. If there ever was a dark horse candidate to be an NFL 1,000-yard rusher, it's Parker.

"The moral of the story? It's not supposed to happen that way again - I'm not even thinking in my wildest dreams of being near 1,000 yards, and it's coming around now,'' he said. "The picture's being painted now.''


link-----> http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10576924/
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Old 12-22-2005, 05:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

WILLIE FOR 1,000! Good to see Willie can get it done this year. 1,000 yards man that is a sign of a good year.
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Old 12-22-2005, 06:05 PM   #3
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

All the more impressive considering that he sat for a couple games and had to split a lot of time with Duce and the Bus.

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Old 12-22-2005, 06:21 PM   #4
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

I love Willie's story. He wasn't drafted, but he got a chance with a NFL team and made the most of it. Congrats Willie! Would be great to see you hit 1,000 yards.
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Old 12-22-2005, 06:24 PM   #5
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

it will be nice to see him get it. a good way to really start off his career as a NFL RB.
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Old 12-22-2005, 06:27 PM   #6
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

Undrafted FA to a NFL Super Star. This man has a great future with Pittsburgh.
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Old 12-22-2005, 08:12 PM   #7
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

I am suprised that we have only had five 1,000 yard rushers... Parker would be the sixth.
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Old 12-22-2005, 08:28 PM   #8
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

I think the whole "only having 5 running backs with over 1,000 yard seasons" is kind of misleading. The Steelers never really did anything before the Dynasty, and we had Franco from 1972-83. After Franco was Frank Pollard, who got 851 and 991 yards in 84 and 85, then had a season ending injury in 1986 and was never the same. Then Earnest Jackson took over, who had 2 1,000 yard seasons in SD and PHI, then came here and had 910, 696, and 315. He takes us to 1989. I can't find out who the starter was from 1989. in 1990, Barry Foster finally comes in. He reaches his peak in 1992 with 1690, and then Bam Morris comes in and they start splitting time. Bam and Pegram split time in 1995, then Bam leaves, and in 1996 we get Jerome, which brings us up to now. All in all, we have alot of 800+ yard years, but not alot of 1 person rushing for 1,000 yards. I think it'll be great if Willie does. He's a great story, and it could only happen with the Steelers.
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Old 12-22-2005, 09:25 PM   #9
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

Nice job Willie! Lets go for 1200!
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Old 12-22-2005, 09:45 PM   #10
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Default Re: Parker closing in on 1,000

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelCityMan786
Undrafted FA to a NFL Super Star. This man has a great future with Pittsburgh.
aight i wouldn't go there, willie is far from being an nfl superstar, but anyway i've like willie since we got him, i still don't think he is the answer for us, but hell i wouldn't mind being wrong with this. i'm glad he's getting a 1000+ yards this season, and he's the kinda players i like, the undrafted players that end up having a little impact to the team.
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