When looking at past great players that have pioneered football, we can think of a lot of names, influences, origins, and eras, that have made the game of football that we know now to be a great spectacle. You don’t have a present without a past. And in the past, it created some immortal players, coaches, and team dynasties that are forever cemented in the history of football. One player, in particular, is embedded in the history of the Edmonton sports scene forever. That player is Jackie Parker.
John Dickerson “Jackie” Parker was born on January 1st, 1932 in Knoxville, Tennessee. As a child, Jackie Parker had 2 major health scares where he was lucky to be alive. He survived a ruptured appendix, along with a flesh-eating disease to one of his legs which he miraculously serviced both health scares.
College Football Career
He would attend Young City High School (now defunct) and play football for only 1 season. That lone season was a year in which he would become a star tailback for Young City High School. He would also marry his high school sweetheart Peggy Jo prior to attending college. Because of this, his options were limited as the big football program college schools were not overly big on accepting players that were already married prior to attending a college program.
Jackie Parker would begin at a junior college where he would play at Jones County Junior College in Ellisville, Mississippi. He would play there between 1950 and 1951. He was an instrumental player in guiding the Bobcat football team in 1951 to a 9-0-1 record. Simultaneously while at Jones County Junior College, he was a standout shortstop for the baseball team. He would guide his team to a runner-up in the 1951 Baseball State Championship. The following year, he would lead his team and win the 1952 State Championship.
In 1952 Jackie Parker would transfer to Mississippi State. Wanting to play more football, his options were limited and head football coach Murray Warmath had a policy with married players. However, Mississippi State baseball coach R.P. “Doc” Patty did not have any such policy for students that were married. It was then he was offered a scholarship from Mississippi State and in return, Jackie Parker’s luck came to fruition. He would be offered a contract to play professional baseball with the Cincinnati Reds. Also, during the 1952 season, Murray Warmath would abolish his policy for married players. Coach Murray Warmath was in desperate need of a player that can take control of his offense. He felt that there were very few players on his current roster that can execute the offense. During the last day of the team’s scrimmage, and just prior to opening day in the 1952 Mississippi State football season, coach Murray Warmath witnessed Jackie Parker toss 7 touchdowns. Coach Murray Warmath had no choice but to take a chance on Jackie Parker as it was a no-brainer due to the lack of talent currently on the Mississippi State Bulldogs football team.
Jackie parker would complete his college football career with astonishing numbers and would accomplish a lot of records. Not only would he play quarterback, but would also contribute to the Mississippi State football program by also playing other positions such as a placekicker, defensive back, punt returner, and kick returner. He would finish his college football career with the following accolades:
Most points scored by a non-kicker in a single season with 120 in 1952 (Vick Ballard tied it in 2010).
Most total points in a single season with 168 in 1952
Highest career yards per pass attempt at 8.518
Most points in a single game with 6 TDs & 6 PATs vs Auburn in 1952
Jackie Parker has also set several records that have since been broken but remains on the top ten list in several categories at MSU with the following:
2nd most touchdowns for rushing and passing in a single game with 6 vs Auburn in 1952 (broken by Dak Prescott in 2015)
2nd in single-season rushing TDs with 16 in 1952 behind Vick Ballard with 19 in 2010
3rd in career passing efficiency at 135.11 behind Tyler Russell’s 137.3 and Dak Prescott’s 146.0
3rd in single-season total TDs responsible for rushing and passing with 24 in 1953 behind Dak Prescott’s 41 in 2014 and Tyler Russell’s 26 in 2012
Tied with J.J. Johnson and John Bond for 5th in career rushing TDs with 24 behind Michael Davis, Vick Ballard, Dak Prescott, and Anthony Dixon
7th on the all-time scoring list.
10th in single-season total TDs responsible for rushing and passing with 15 in 1952
Jackie Parker would be drafted by the New York Giants in 1953 in the 27th round, and the 325th overall pick. However, he would elect to sign a contract with the Edmonton Eskimos (now Edmonton Elks). One of the main reasons was the fact that his former quarterback’s coach at Mississippi State, Darrell Royal was now the head coach for Edmonton. For a young talented Jackie Parker, it was a no-brainer to head north and play football at Edmonton for coach Darrell Royal. After all, why not? You have a coach that already witnessed your talent at the college level. Moreover, being a multi-dimensional player, Jackie knew he would be a great asset to the football team as he can be placed in multiple situations at any point in a game.
Jackie Parker would continue his success on the gridiron while in Edmonton. He would be a cornerstone of the Edmonton Eskimos’ first franchise dynasty in being part of Grey Cup Champions in a threepeat in 1954, 1955, and 1956. His multi-dimensional talents would be seen by the football world in which he would excite fans every time he would touch a football.
He would play for the Edmonton Eskimos from 1954-1962, followed by playing for the Toronto Argonauts from 1963-1965 after being traded by Edmonton following the 1962 season in a 5-player trade.
He would take a short hiatus and come back to play briefly with the BC Lions during the 1968 season. During this season, he was also the assistant coach. With the BC Lions struggling, Jackie Parker would come out of retirement to complete the 1968 season before officially calling it a career as a player. He would end the 1968 season by kicking a field goal.
When Jackie Parker’s playing days were done, he would be considered one of the most important figures in pro football. Was he the best quarterback, wide receiver, punter, running back, defensive back, kick returner, and placekicker of all time? No. But without a doubt, Jackie Parker was a player that was so talented that he excelled in playing multi-positions. He was a game changer. He can carry a team on his back when a team was struggling for a win. He was a total team player and his stats speak for themselves.
Passing Yards: 16,476
Total TD’s: 88
Field Goals: 40
Singles (the Rouge): 19
Total Points Scored: 750
He would also be the head coach and co-head coach for Edmonton from 1983-1987. He would complete his coaching record with 51 wins, 31 losses, and 1 tie. He would go on to win a Grey Cup as a coach in 1987.
Life After Football
Jackie Parker became a permanent resident in Edmonton, Alberta after his playing and coaching days. He was known to be a great player, but more importantly, an even better person off the field.
Sadly, Jackie Parker would pass away on November 7th, 2006 at the age of 74 due to throat cancer.
Grey Cup Victories: 1954, 1955, 1956
Schenley for CFL’s Most Outstanding Player: 1957, 1958, 1960
CFL All-Star: 1954, 1955, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961
Jeff Nicklin Memorial Trophy (West Division’s Most Outstanding Player): 1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961
Dave Dryburgh Memorial Trophy (Top Scorer in West Division): 1959, 1961
Canadian Football Hall of Fame: 1971
Edmonton Eskimo Wall of Honour: 1983
Canadian Sports Hall of Fame: 1987
Mississippi State University Hall of Fame: 1972
Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame: 1972
College Football Hall of Fame: 1976
Mr. Jackie Parker, you were a special gift adopted by the City of Edmonton. You wore the Edmonton green and gold with pride. You will always be remembered as one of the greatest citizens of the City of Edmonton.
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