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Parker's First Client was Rod Woodson

By Ed Bouchette
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 5 years ago

Good morning,

The obituary in Tuesday’s Post-Gazette read “Renowned football agent Eugene Parker, who represented Hall of Fame players Emmitt Smith and Deion Sanders, has died of cancer in Atlanta. He was 60.’’

I assume that came from the Associated Press, but it never mentioned that Parker’s first client was another Hall of Famer, Rod Woodson and of course never mentioned how his first client held out until after Halloween as a rookie. The Steelers drafted Woodson in the first round in 1987, and I spent more time on the phone with Parker during that holdout period than I did with my bosses at the PG.

I had never heard of Parker before then. Few in the football business had. He was a former Purdue basketball player who himself was drafted, into the NBA, but never played. He earned his law degree and settled into business at Ft. Wayne, Indiana, which also happened to be the hometown of one Roderick Kevin Woodson.

By the draft, Woodson had signed with super agent Marvin Demoff and Parker teamed with Demoff to help represent him. I’m still not sure how they teamed up but I assume that Parker talked to Woodson and then helped him find an experienced agent. Parker enjoyed the process and unlike many agents today, he readily got on the phone to me to discuss Woodson.

He was professional the entire time but it had to be fun for him (and for me) as Woodson ran the hurdles in track all over the world, setting records, and continued to hold out – the longest holdout since I began covering the Steelers for the PG in 1985. I can still recall Chuck Noll’s anger about a week or so into training camp when Woodson remained absent.

I did not know it at the time, but there seemed to be a plan in place because Demoff and Parker did not want Woodson to experience the players’ strike that everyone knew was coming. The players walked out after two games and did not return until one game was canceled and three others were played with replacements. A few veterans played with those “scabs” and others dwindled across the picket line to play as the weeks progressed. Demoff/Parker did not want Woodson to have to make those tough decisions, so just held him out.

Not long after the strike ended, Woodson signed. He played his first game on Nov. 8 at Kansas City and would play in the team’s final eight games.

Parker would go on to have the kind of success in the agent business that Woodson did on the field of play. Parker formed his own agency and among his later clients were Hines Ward and Larry Fitzgerald.

Through the years, Parker and I would talk whenever he had a client with the Steelers. He was a big shot by then, but always was the true professional in a business that does not often produce them. RIP, Eugene, a real legend of the game. 

--- I received a list from the NFL the other day headlined: NFL Legends Attending 2016 NFL Draft.

The list included Hall of Famers Jim Kelly, Dick Butkus, Paul Warfield and Larry Csonka. True legends.

But listed right with them were the likes of Chad Pennington, Tony Richardson, Rodney Hampton and others who probably are surprised themselves to be included among the “legends” of the game. More overkill from the NFL. 

--- One Ask Ed question today (you can send yours to ebouchette@post-gazette.com )

--- YOU: Looking at the alarming lack of depth, right now, along the defensive line, could it actually be a hint at their draft strategy? It's a class deep at DT, and the defense is in evolution under Keith Butler--maybe the idea was to more or less clean house and bring in young and versatile interior linemen who can be used in a variety of packages. Maybe two, maybe more?

ED: I talked to one NFL personnel man yesterday who agreed with me that drafting a pure nose tackle in the first round just does not make sense for the Steelers. First off, they have two good starting defensive ends so there is no need to find another one of those. Yes, they need backups but you do not draft for backups on the first round.

As for NT, why would you use a first-round pick on someone who will play just 30-35 percent of the time on defense? Especially in a draft that is chock full of good defensive linemen. You can get one or two later. Go for the defensive back in the first round, be it cornerback or safety, someone who will never leave the field once he gets established. I know you do not reach far in the first round but they would be better off drafting another outside linebacker first than a nose tackle, in my humble opinion.