Even 25 years ago, Bill Parcells, then a tackle at the University of Wichita, was getting doused.
Beer was what best man and teammate Steve Barilla dumped on him in a Wichita tavern in 1961, the night before Parcells married Judith Goss at Holy Savior Church.
A cooler of Gatorade is what Parcells, coach of the Super Bowl-bound New York Giants, now gets splashed with by linebacker Harry Carson toward the end of each winning game.
Repeated efforts last week to have Parcells return a reporter’s calls were unsuccessful.
But friends from the past described him as a disciplined, unrelenting lineman, well-schooled in the fundamentals of football; an exacting coach who won the respect of his players; a personable easy-going fellow away from the football field.
Barilla, now a businessman in Lehighton, Pa., recalled in an interview Parcells’ last night as a bachelor.
“We went out and tipped a few brews,” he said. “Then I dumped a beer on him. I just sort of accidentally put it in his lap. It wasn’t anything prepared.”
Parcells dried off in time for the wedding and the remainder of a successful football career that has seen him go from a hard-nosed college tackle to the winningest and wettest coach in the National Football League.
It doesn’t matter to former Shocker teammate and fellow offensive lineman Dick Klein that Parcells is continually being drenched, just as long as he keeps winning.
“Just in the last two weeks he’s won me a 1976 bottle of Dom Perignon and a bottle of Usquaebach scotch,” Klein says of two bets he’s won by picking the Giants in the playoffs.
Klein, now vice president of franchising for Rent-A-Center in Wichita, remembers Parcells the player as never great “but an aggressive individual.”
“Bill was a hustler,” Klein said. “He used to think he was faster than he was, and always tried to challenge the backs. He was the best tackle. He wasn’t the biggest and he wasn’t the strongest. But common sense-wise, knowledge-wise, he was probably the best of all of us.”
Parcells, originally from New Jersey, found his way to Wichita in 1960 after he and several other players from the northeast were recruited by head coach Hank Foldberg. Parcells began by playing offensive end.
When he left in 1964, he was an offensive tackle and seventh-round draft pick of the Detroit Lions, though he failed to make the team and immediately went into coaching.
The late Chelo Huerta, who succeeded Foldberg as head coach in 1962, often praised his offensive line, which included Klein, Barilla and Parcells.
“Our tackles and guards are whipping their opponents every Saturday,” Huerta said in a newspaper interview during the 1963 campaign when the team went 7-2, including an upset of then 10th-ranked Arizona State in Tempe.
Huerta singled out Parcells.
“Parcells is turning out to be great,” Huerta said then. “This man just goes about his work with a brand of play that rubs off onto his teammates. And that I like.”
But Klein said Parcells also could fool the coaches into thinking he was a hard worker when, at times, he wasn’t working at all.
“We didn’t have the weight-training programs they have now,” Klein said. “The only thing we had were isometrics, and Parcells was the greatest at not doing them. It was amazing how many facial contortions he could go through to make the coach think he was trying.”
That was practice, though.
On the field, Klein said Parcells was one tough lineman.
“He was very disciplined and extremely aggressive to the point where he wanted to hit somebody on every play,” Klein said.
“Parcells and I had a theory on the first play of the game that we’d always be offsides just to let the opponents know we were there. But Bill had a good all-around knowledge of the game. A lineman, in most cases, doesn’t grasp the whole game. You’re only concerned with what goes on in the trenches. But Bill always knew what was happening at all the positions.”
Bob Long, also drafted off the 1963 team into the NFL and an eventual star under Green Bay’s Vince Lombardi, characterized Parcells as “hard-working, tough, a blue-collar player.”
“And it shows with his team in New York,” said Long, who runs a real estate investment firm in Milwaukee with former Packer quarterback Bart Starr. “If you noticed, he got the blue collars first at New York and built on them.”
Jim Mattox of Putnam City, Okla., roomed with Parcells one year and later coached with him at the University of Wichita.
“The thing I remember when we were roommates is that we used to always talk about pro sports and big-name athletes,” said Maddox.
But the one thing that really sticks out in my mind is that he always used to tell me he would like to become the head coach of the New York Giants because he was from that part of the country.”
Asked how Parcells fared in his classes, Maddox said, “I think he was just so-so on the academics. He didn’t spend a lot of time with the studies.” But Maddox added that he didn’t think Parcells was the type of person who had to study hard to get good grades.
Parcells was twice named all-Missouri Valley Conference and was on the 1961 team that went to the Shockers’ last bowl game, the Sun Bowl.
Off the field, former teammates describe Parcells as happy-go-lucky, personable and easy to get along with.
Parcells worked at a Pizza Hut at 17th and Hillside to help defray his expenses, though he was on scholarship.
One former teammate, Gene Coyne, who now lives in St. Louis, recalls living with Parcells in the other half of a duplex near 17th and Hillside.
“We weren’t allowed to smoke but he was always coming over, bumming cigarettes from me,” Coyne said. “They didn’t have a phone on their side of the duplex so he’d usually come over to our side, lie on the floor and talk on the phone to his girlfriend.”
That girlfriend was Judith Goss, whose parents, Howard and Virginia Goss, still live in Wichita. Judith was working in the Shocker sports information department when she met Parcells.
Once Parcells was cut from the Lions, he started his coaching career at Hastings (Neb.) College.
He returned to WSU in 1965 as defensive line coach, a position he kept until leaving to join the Army coaching staff in 1967. College coaching stints at Florida State, Texas Tech, Air Force, as well as positions with the Giants and New England Patriots, followed.
Parcells became head coach of the Giants in December 1982, after Ray Perkins resigned.
Maddox said that when he and Parcells were assistant coaches at WSU in 1965 and 1966, Parcells was “just like he is right now.”
“He was pretty demanding of his players. He wanted everything done right, but yet he was still a player’s coach like you can tell he is now with the Giants. He always got along with the players.”
On Jan. 25, he’ll lead the Giants onto the field for pro football’s most prestigious contest – the Super Bowl. And if the Giants win, Carson’s favorite target won’t be wet with just water. That’ll be Parcells receiving the trophy, in a somewhat familiar position, under a shower of champagne.