By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Much has changed since Kirk Ferentz became the head football coach at Iowa in 1999, but one thing that hasn't changed is the last name of his defensive coordinator.
The late Norm Parker served as Ferentz's defensive coordinator from 1999 to 2011, while Phil Parker (no relation) has held the position since 2012.
To only have had two defensive coordinators for the past 20 years is highly unusual in big-time college football where coaches always seem to be coming and going in search of something better.
Phil Parker coached the Iowa defensive backs from 1999 to 2011 before being promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012. Phil Parker focused solely on being the defensive coordinator in 2012, but has held a dual role as defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach since 2013.
And the results have been staggering with five Iowa defensive backs having made first-team All-Big Ten since 2013, including Desmond King, who won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015 as the nation's top collegiate defensive back.
A total of 15 Iowa defensive backs have made first-team all-conference under Phil Parker's watch.
From Bob Sanders to Micah Hyde to Josh Jackson to Amani Hooker, the list of Iowa defensive backs to have flourished under Parker is long and distinguished and just keeps growing.
The challenge this spring is to develop the next wave of defensive backs and Parker met with the media on Tuesday to update the progress being made.
He addressed multiple topics, including Iowa's recent switch to a 4-2-5 defensive alignment. Hooker thrived in that role last season, playing both linebacker and defensive back, and was named the Defensive Back of the Year in the Big Ten.
But there is a price for success and Iowa is paying a price with Hooker having since declared for the 2019 NFL Draft as a junior.
Hooker is Phil Parker's latest masterpiece, a former unheralded recruit who defied the odds at Iowa. Hooker's unexpected rise to stardom is part of a trend under Parker at Iowa where lightly recruited defensive backs have far exceeded expectations.
The question now is there another defensive back waiting to emerge under Parker?
Maybe it'll be junior safety Geno Stone or junior cornerback Matt Hankins or senior cornerback Michael Ojemudia.
Or maybe it'll be one of the younger defensive backs such as D.J. Johnson or Terry Roberts.
Parker spoke highly of Roberts on Tuesday.
"I think Terry Roberts has really done a good job here in the last week," Parker said of the Erie, Pa., native. "I mean, he's definitely got good speed and he's been playing a lot better in the last, I don't know, five, six days."
Hooker was versatile enough and big enough at 210 pounds to handle both the physicality and the fineese that is required to play the new cash position in the 4-2-5 scheme.
The current defensive backs aren't as big or as physical as Hooker, and Parker was asked on Tuesday if that is a concern
" I think Amani, having him out there, yeah, he was good size, and I don't know if he had a ton of tackles out there," Parker said. " But I do think when they do get out there, the guys we have in there might be quicker feet, can use their feet a little bit better than maybe he did and maybe have a chance to make a play.
"But I don't think that is a concern because usually most of those guy, wide receivers, they are going to run the guys off and we're going to try to defend it with the guys in the box. I think it's a good question. I think the way we're looking at it, to us, it's like a little bit more of a skill player as a corner than it is as a safety."
The Iowa football program has only had four defensive coordinators since Hayden Fry became head coach in 1979.
Bill Brashier served under Fry from 1979 to 1995 when he retired from coaching. Bobby Elliott was promoted to defensive coordinator and held the position until Fry retired shortly after the 1998 season.
Ferentz then replaced Fry as head coach shortly after the 1998 season and Iowa's defensive coordinator has had the same last name for two decades now.
Phil Parker has to be admired for his loyalty because he could've easily used his success at Iowa as a springboard to a head coaching position.
But not everybody wants to be a head coach and have to deal with the distractions and headaches that come with that responsibility.
Brashier had no interest in being a head coach after coming to Iowa, and Norm Parker felt the same way.
And now the 56-year old Phil Parker appears content with staying put and being a big piece to an important puzzle, but not the biggest piece.
As a former three-time All-Big Ten defensive back at Michigan State, Phil Parker has instant credibility with his players and with recruits. He was known for being a violent tackler as a safety and for his competitiveness.
That same competitiveness now fuels Parker as a coach.
He speaks softy to the media, but don't let that fool you.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a coach who is more competitive, more demanding and more passionate about his work than Phil Parker.
His loyalty also helps him stand out.
Here are multiple videos from parker's press conference on Tuesday: