|Willie Parker #39|
|Height||5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)|
|Weight||209 lb (95 kg)|
|Birthdate||November 11, 1980|
Willie Parker was born in Clinton, North Carolina. He attended Clinton High School, and was a letterman in football. He was a two-time All-Conference and a two-time All-Region honoree. As a junior, he rushed for 1,329 yards and 20 touchdowns and helped lead his team to the state AA title. As a senior, he rushed for 1,801 yards and 18 touchdowns (while averaging 12.3 yards per carry) and was also named the County Player of the Year. One of Parker's cousins is Leonard Henry, a former Miami Dolphins running back.
Willie Parker attended the University of North Carolina. He rushed for 355 yards on 84 carries in his first year, but in his final three years he was only used occasionally due to Willie no being bulked up enough for Carolinas "Power Running Game". In all, he was the teams back up running back.
In his first NFL season (2004), Parker spent his time as a back up running Back behind Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley and Verron Haynes. Being the fourth running back on the team, Parker hardly played that season. His most impressive game of his first season occurred in week 17 at Buffalo. Duce Staley started the game and played most of the first quarter; Parker took the rest of the game. He ran for 102 yards in the remaining 3 quarters, including a very long sprint of 58 yards, that set up a game controlling drive. The Steelers, playing mostly reserves (third-stringer Brian St. Pierre played part of the game at QB) had already sealed the top seed in the AFC that year, but for the Bills, a win could have meant the playoffs. After Parker's performance in this game, head coach Bill Cowher gave Parker extensive playing time during the 2005 preseason.
In his second year at the professional level, Parker earned the starting job after both Jerome Bettis (injured hamstring) and Staley (knee problem) missed the first part of the season with injuries. By default, Parker had to play the first game against the Tennessee Titans. He impressed head coach Bill Cowher as well as Titans coach Jeff Fisher by gaining 161 rushing yards on 22 attempts (7.3 average). After following this performance with another 100+ yard game against the Houston Texans, Cowher gave Parker the starting position. "Fast Willie" started 15 of 16 games that season (he was injured week 9 against the Green Bay Packers and missed the week 10 contest against the Cleveland Browns), finishing with 255 carries for 1,202 yards (4.7 average, a career long 80 yard touchdown run in week 16 against the Browns) and 4 touchdowns. He also finished the season with 218 yards receiving and one touchdown. Willie Parker became the first Steeler back since Bettis in 2001 to top 1,000 yards in a season.
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