Willie Parker didn’t have a long-lasting career, but for four seasons, between 2005 and 2008, boy was he fun to watch. One does wonder if his career could have been prolonged had he been able to stay healthier. By the end of his time in Pittsburgh, the deterioration of the offensive line had also been detrimental to his game, particularly to his running style.
Over 79 games, in 60 starts, the North Carolina product rushed for 5378 yards and scored 24 touchdowns, averaging 4.3 yards per carry. His career highlight came in 2006, when he rushed for nearly 1500 yards and 337 carries, scoring 13 rushing touchdowns. That is tied for the second-most rushing touchdowns in a single season in franchise history for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
And now he is hoping to perhaps pass along some wisdom to the team’s latest running back, Anthony McFarland, whom he has heard plenty about over the years. You see, as he told Ed Bouchette for The Athletic, Parker used to train with McFarland’s older brother, Thomas Dixon, a former wideout for North Carolina Central. He even admitted that the short, quick Dixon beat him in a race once—before he won the next five or six races, because he underestimated his opponent the first time.
The point is, though, that he’s heard plenty about Dixon’s younger brother, Anthony McFarland, over the years through those training sessions. “It’s so funny, I know that kid”, he told Bouchette.
“He always talked about his little brother”, Parker said of Dixon. “Always. He used to show me highlights of this kid when he was at Maryland. It’s so funny the Steelers drafted him. His family was stoked. I like that kid. He was supposed to come and work out with me a few times but it didn’t work out”.
McFarland is shorter, lighter, and not quite as fast as Parker was, but he has a nice combination of speed and toughness for his size. “He’s a big boy and he’s fast to be that big”, Parker said, calling him “a great addition to the backfield”.
The former Pro Bowler also told Bouchette that he continues to keep close tabs on the Steelers and remains in contact with a number of his former teammates. He also has dabbled in coaching in the past. I think it would be great if he gets the chance to reach out to McFarland and share some of his wisdom.
As it stands, the rookie is coming into a crowded backfield that also includes James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell, and Kerrith Whyte, though I don’t think anybody is particularly worried about whether or not he is going to make the 53-man roster.