O'Hara: Bill Parcells' beginnings in Detroit spurred his ambition to coach

Posted Jul 19, 2013

Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and coined such phrases as "you are what your record says you are", had his first NFL fling with the Lions

For all the great things Bill Parcells accomplished in a coaching career that will be capped off by his induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton on Aug. 3, his first NFL experience ended in one of his few failures.

Bill ParcellsBill Parcells (Photo: AP Images)

However, that failure was only a momentary setback, and it actually spurred Parcells to pursue more quickly his ultimate ambition to go into coaching.

The man who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and coined such phrases as "you are what your record says you are" had his first NFL fling with the Lions.

The Lions drafted Parcells in the seventh round in 1964. Parcells played linebacker at Wichita State, but he really didn't fit in at that position in the pros. He was quickly cut by the Lions. But as Parcells said in a national conference call interview on Tuesday, that really wasn't a surprise to him.

He knew his limitations in football. In fact, if he wanted to pursue a career in pro sports, he thought baseball would have been a better choice.

"I think I've always been a good self-evaluator in terms of what my chances were," Parcells said in his conference call interview. "I think probably if I went back and did it over, I had a much better chance as a baseball prospect on the pro level than I did as a football prospect."

Parcells was a highly regarded high school athlete in New Jersey. He originally enrolled at Colgate. After his freshman year he was offered a baseball contract by the Phillies but rejected it. He transferred to Wichita State, where he finished his college playing career.

The 1964 Lions were strong on defense, and there really wasn't a position open for Parcells. The linebacker corps was led by Joe Schmidt, Wayne Walker, Carl Brettschneider and Ernie Clark.

"I was kind of in-between size for the position I would up playing," Parcells said. "I wasn't overly big – certainly not overly fast. I was just kind of an in-between guy who played almost every position in football at one time or another.

"I think I was versatile in that regard at a lower level. When you had to get down and do something specific consistently well, I just didn't have enough ability."

After leaving the Lions, Parcells was quickly hired that same season as an assistant at Hasting College in Nebraska. The transition from pro-hopeful to assistant coach was easy, Parcells said.

"It wasn't hard at all," he said. "I had very good coaching as a young man in high school."