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Hall of Fame football player Jim Parker, who credits living a year in Toledo with introducing him to football and impacting the rest of his life, died yesterday at the age of 71.
"I give Toledo credit for being the turning point in my life," Parker said in 2000 for a story published in The Blade. "If it wasn't for Toledo, I'd still be in Georgia. And if it wasn't for [Scott football coach] Artie Brighton, I never would have played prep football."
Parker, who was born in Macon, Ga., went on to play for legendary coach Woody Hayes at Ohio State before establishing himself as one of the all-time great offensive linemen in the National Football League as a member of the Baltimore Colts (1957-67). The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1973.
From 1958 to 1965, Parker earned eight straight trips to the Pro Bowl. He, along with New England Patriots Hall of Famer John Hannah, were named as the offensive guards on the 27-man, all-time NFL team chosen by the Pro Football Hall of Fame voters in 2000.
"Coach Brighton saw this big monster walking through the halls at Scott and he asked him to come out for football. He played one year at Scott and the rest is history," said Ralph Lewis, Parker's cousin who was six years younger than the man who would eventually become a mainstay on the Colts' offensive line built to protect Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. "He made All-City the one season he played at Scott but he was really an unknown quantity.
"Apparently, Woody saw something in him and recruited him."
Ironically, Lewis said Parker's football career may have never materialized had he not left Georgia to move to Toledo to stay with Lewis and his family.
"I had heard when he was down there in Macon as a sophomore and junior in high school the coach down there wouldn't let him play," Lewis said. "The coach thought he wasn't good enough.
"He came up here and became an All-American."
Lewis, who played football and basketball at Scott then lettered in basketball at the University of Toledo (1960-62) before becoming an attorney and assistant county prosecutor, grew up with Parker in Georgia before his family moved to Toledo. When Parker moved to Toledo he had to share a room with Lewis. Parker became like an older brother to Lewis.
"We delivered the Toledo Times together," Lewis said. "We were real close."
Toledoan Jim Powell, a 1958 Scott graduate who went on to play football at UT, knew Parker and respected the standout lineman who earned All-NFL honors eight times - four as a guard, four as a tackle.
"Jim was a legend in the community here," Powell said. "He made All-City that one year at Scott. He went on to Ohio State and you know the rest of the story."
Parker was a two-time All-American selection while excelling in the trenches at Ohio State. He, along with Howard "Hopalong" Cassady helped guide the Buckeyes to a 9-0 regular season record in 1954 that included winning the Big Ten championship to earn a trip to the Rose Bowl. They led the Buckeyes to a 20-7 Rose Bowl victory over Southern California.
Parker's impressive resume also includes becoming the first Buckeye to win an Outland Trophy Award, which is presented annually to the top college offensive linemen. At a time when few African-Americans lived on Ohio State's campus, Parker stayed with Hayes, who introduced Parker at the Hall of Fame ceremonies in 1973.
"Physically, Jim was in a class by himself," Hayes said during the ceremony. "Attitude-wise, he was even greater. You only had to tell him [something] once."
The Colts used a first-round draft pick to select Parker in the 1957 draft. Parker married three times and had eight children.
Lewis said Parker had been experiencing health problems in recent years and recently had been put on a dialysis machine.
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