Sports Editor's Note: The following was submitted by Norwich High School Athletic Director Joseph Downey, and was written by Tom Rowe.
Although he never wore a shield with a large red “S” on his chest, Jeff Parker embodied two of the three traits associated with ‘Superman.’ No, he didn’t leap over tall buildings with a single bound, but like the fictional ‘Man of Steel’ he seemed to be “faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive” whenever he donned the Purple and White, especially when he took to the Norwich football field.
A three-sport athlete (football, basketball and baseball) with eight varsity letters under his belt, Parker earned his spot in the sixth induction class of the Norwich High School Sports Hall of Fame with his record-setting performance on the gridiron. There, between 1994-96, he established the Tornado’s all-time career rushing mark of 2,930 yards on 356 carries in 25 games, an average of 8.2 yards per tote and 117.2 yards per outing. The previous record of 2,652 yards had been held by Barry Benjamin, a fellow NHSSHOF inductee, back in 1980-82. And, that total would have been even greater had he not missed the final two games of the 1995 season due to an ankle injury.
“Jeff was a threat to go all the way every time he touched the ball. He, in one word, was explosive,” recalled former Norwich football coach John Pluta. “He was a complete back – a tremendous combination of desire, explosiveness, speed, strength and instinct.”
That explosiveness was compacted into a 5-foot; 9-inch frame that topped out at 180 pounds. But, like Superman, this mighty mite packed a punch with lightning speed and strength. In addition to that career rushing record, Parker scored 31 touchdowns and added 24 PATs for a tidy sum of 210 points or 8.4 per game. During the course of his three-year stint as the Purple’s go-to guy, he compiled 100 yards or more 14 times, with three games being in excess of 200 yards.
“Jeff was not among our fastest players in practice, but he did not get caught on game days when he broke into the clear,” noted Pluta, who nowadays is the defensive line coach at Morrisville State College. “In our quick dive game, he was the best we had. He understood the need to explode through the hole and nobody got into it quicker. He would disappear into the line and had an uncanny ability to make one cut, break a tackle at the second level and burst into the secondary.”
The first of those 200-yard efforts came during his junior year of 1995 when he went 16-for-217 in a 46-14 thumping of Seton Catholic Central on Oct. 7. He, however, saved his best for his senior campaign when he totaled 235 yards on 26 totes as Norwich blanked Solvay 14-0 in the Carrier Dome on Sept. 14, 1996, and proceeded to chart his best single-game performance of 32-for-267 in the Purple’s hard-fought 28-23 triumph at Oneonta on Oct. 11.