Willie Parker Player Bio/Best Cards

Undrafted free agent. A position no player who enters the draft wants to be in after the draft. Unfortunately there are undrafted free agents every year, most of which never get a chance to showcase their abilities in the NFL. But every once in awhile, a team will pick one of these undrafted free agents up and realize they found a gem in the sand. The Pittsburgh Steelers have a prime example of one of these “gems” and most Steelers fans refer to him as “Fast Willie.”

Willie Everette Parker, born November 11, 1980 is the Pittsburgh Steelers starting running back. He was born in Clinton, NC where he attended Clinton High School. As a junior, he rushed for 1,329 yards and 20 touchdowns while leading the Dark Horses to the state 2-A title. He earned all-conference honors his junior year. As a senior, he rushed for 1,801 yards and 18 touchdowns. His Dark Horses made it to the 2-A state quarterfinals. He was voted the County Player of the Year and was awarded all-region honors.

Coming out of high school, Parker was barely recruited but he chose to attend the University of North Carolina. As a freshman, he was unable to play until the eighth game of the season due to a back injury during fall workouts. In the four games he played in, Parker rushed for 355 yards on 84 carries. He scored four touchdowns.

As a sophomore, Parker started the first three games and made an appearance in nine total games. During his sophomore season though, Parker’s best friend from Clinton was murdered which made the season especially hard for him. He finished the season with 400 yards on 83 carries. He also got into the end zone three times.

As a junior, Parker started only two games and appeared in 11 total games. He finished the season with 236 yards on 70 carries and one touchdown. He also caught 12 passes for 104 yards. As a senior, Parker earned “Super Ram” status in the weight room and was a part of North Carolina’s strength & conditioning honor roll. He played in nine games as a senior, and he rushed for 181 yards on 48 attempts. He also caught seven passes for 28 yards.

Coming out of college, Parker was not well known. He ended up not getting drafted. He tried out for the Steelers, and he made the final 53-man roster. He led the team in rushing during the preseason, racking up 202 yards on 46 carries. He also scored two touchdowns. Parker made his NFL debut on November 7th against the Philadelphia Eagles. He finished with 14 yards on three carries in that game. Later in his rookie season, he got his first 100 yard game on January 2nd against the Buffalo Bills. He finished that game with 102 yards on 19 carries. He had a long of 58 yards in that game which led to the game-winning field goal. The 58 yard run was also the longest run from scrimmage for the Steelers in seven years. He finished his rookie season with 186 yards on 32 carries.

After an impressive rookie season, Bill Cowher (Steelers head coach at the time) decided to give Parker more chances in the 2005 season. Cowher made the right decision because he finished his second NFL season with 1,202 yards (sixth highest in team history) on 225 carries and became only the second undrafted free agent running back to rush for 1,000+ yards in a season in NFL history. He scored four touchdowns and was also a receiving threat out of the backfield, catching 18 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown.

Parker made his first NFL start in week one of the 2005 season against the Tennessee Titans. Parker made a major impact in this game by rushing for 161 yards on 22 carries and a rushing touchdown. He had a 45 yard long run against the Titans, and he ended up with 209 yards from scrimmage (he also had a 48 yard reception on a screen pass). His performance in week 1 earned him AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. And Parker did not stop there.

In week two he rushed for his 3rd consecutive 100-yard game (dating back to his rookie season) against the Houston Texans. He rushed 25 times and totaled 111 yards and one touchdown.

His Steelers made the playoffs and Parker didn’t stop producing for the Steelers. He finished the playoffs with 225 yards and one touchdown. The one touchdown came in Super Bowl XL on a 75 yard run (longest in Super Bowl history) in a victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

After his production in his rookie and second seasons, the Steelers rewarded Parker with a four-year, $13.6 million dollar contract. Parker did not let the Steelers down in his third year, rushing for a career-high 1,494 yards on 337 attempts and 13 rushing touchdowns. Parker also added 222 yards receiving on 31 receptions. He ended the season with three receiving touchdowns. Parker’s best game in his third NFL season was on November 12th at home against the New Orleans Saints. Parker finished the game was an incredible 213 yards (five yards short of the Steelers single-game rushing record) on 22 carries. His long rushes of the game were 72 and 76 yards. His 76 yard rush was the longest run in Heinz Field history. Along with this astonishing game, Parker had another great game that year on December 7th against the Cleveland Browns. Parker ended up rushing for 223 yards (Steelers single game rushing record) on 32 carries before being taken out in the third quarter. Parker became the only Steelers running back to rush for two 200+ yard games in one season. Parker was named the team MVP and was selected to go to his first Pro-Bowl.

Parker started off the 2007 season extremely well. In the first three games, he had consecutive 100+ yard games against Cleveland (109 yards), Buffalo (126 yards), and San Francisco (133 yards). After a rough game against Arizona (37 yards), Parker bounced back and managed to rush for 102 yards against Seattle. Parker had four more 100+ yards game on the season giving him eight for the season. As the Steelers went into week 16, Parker was leading the league in rushing with 1,317 yards. Unfortunately, his season would take a horrible turn in against St. Louis. On Parker’s first rushing attempt (a toss to the left), a Ram defender hit him and broke Parker’s right fibula, putting him out for the remainder of the season and the Pro Bowl (he was selected to his second straight Pro Bowl). Parker finished the season with 1,316 yards on 321 attempts. He scored just two touchdowns.

Best Cards
Since Parker was an undrafted free agent, he did not have many cards made in 2004, and they are next to impossible to pull. But if you have a RC or rookie auto, they book very well. Here is a list of some of his best 2004 cards available:

Best Rookie Cards
-2004 Leaf Rookies & Stars Longevity BV $25
-2004 Playoff Honors RC BV $35

Best Rookie Autos
-2004 Contenders Black auto BV $150
-2004 Contenders Blue auto BV $250^
-2004 Leaf Limited Contenders Preview Ticket #/25 BV $250