You simply cannot pass a test about Wabash football without knowing the name Stan Parrish. It will be the answer to a few very important questions.
We cannot understate the impact he had, or better said, has.
Not just from 1978 to ‘82 and the five years he was head coach, but to today, to this very second.
Parrish passed away last week at age 75 in Michigan, and the tributes to this coach from Ohio rang as loud and clear as “Old Wabash” on the steps of the Chapel the day before the Monon Bell game.
He won a lot.
Two of those five seasons the Little Giants didn’t lose a game. He finished 42-3-1 in those five years as head coach.
But significantly more important was the foundation of excellence he put down, a foundation that has never weakened.
“When our players take the field before every home game,” current Little Giants coach Don Morel said, “we walk through the Stan Parrish Tunnel out on to Frank Navarro Field. Every player knows about Stan, about his legacy, about how he built on the success that he was part of as an assistant coach into the incredible record he had in his five years. What he did here was amazing, it re-formed Wabash excellence and the foundation he built has lasted for 40 years.”
After a stint at Purdue while he was earning his Master’s Degree, Parrish came to Wabash in the fall of 1977 as an assistant coach to Navarro, and as all Wabash fans know, that was the season the Little Giants went to the Stagg Bowl and played for the national champi0nship.
Parrish was given the top job the next season and went 8-1, then 8-1 again, then 8-0-1, then 8-1 and in ‘82 went 10-0.
“The winning got crazy with Stan,” Morel noted.
But, that wasn’t the only winning going on.
There was a fairly new coach in the building leading the basketball team, and Mac Petty had an office a step or two from the football coach.
He also utilized a kid named Metzelaars, who had earned All-American status as a tight end, to win a national basketball championship in ‘82.
“Stan made me aware of Pete,” Petty said. “Stan was recruiting both Pete and the big fullback on their high school team, and Stan thought we might be able to get both of them, but that Pete wanted to play basketball. I met with Pete on his visit and there was no problem with him playing basketball. That was a huge thing about Stan - he was always looking for athletes for the other sports when he was recruiting, and never had an issue with guys playing two sports. Stan and I became good friends. We played a lot of golf together and there were a lot of get-togethers after games. I sure remember a few of the arguments that those football guys had once in a while, but I also remember a lot of times that we would ride together to high schools to look at kids and recruit. He was a quality person who understood people. He demanded the best from everyone but was always thankful for his opportunities. He picked up what Coach Navarro started and added his own stamp.”
Metzelaars, who went on to NFL success, including four Super Bowl appearances, thought Parrish had kind of hoodwinked him.
“I didn’t know much about Wabash when I was a senior,” Metzelaars said, “but I knew they had gone to the Stagg Bowl, so I came down with a couple other guys for a visit. I really like the fact that I could play basketball as well as football, and there was no spring football, so I got that time off. What I quickly found out, though, was that Coach didn’t have any plans for me to be a quarterback, but was going to change me to tight end. I wasn’t so sure about all that, but it worked out pretty well.”
Parrish was also an off-the-field guy for the future NFL player.
“Stan did a lot for me,” Metzelaars said. “He demanded a lot, but he helped me make the change to tight end, and he was really helpful with dealing with pro scouts and all the workout stuff. A lot of it was during basketball season, and he helped protect me from over-extending. He kept control over a lot of that. He also said he helped me out by keeping a film hidden of me dropping three passes in one game.”
“The thing about Stan that will always be his legacy,” Metzelaars continued, “is that he took the Wabash football program and set a standard that lives to this day, a high standard, a winning standard. He had the vision, the push, the drive.”
One of the things Metzelaars didn’t look forward to was film sessions.
“They were not easy,” he said.
That wasn’t such the case for David Broecker, who quarterbacked that 10-0 ‘82 team, and the teams the three years before, and who, like Metzelaars, was named All-American.
“Academics always came first and that was important to me,” Broecker said. “Coach Parrish told me that it was his job to get the team prepared so that we wouldn’t have to spend countless hours in film sessions or the weight room, taking time away from academics. True to his word, I only watched film of opposing teams four times in my career at Wabash (all Monon Bell games).”
Broecker, who had taken Carmel to a state championship in ‘77, was sold on Wabash by Parrish.
“I was attracted to Wabash because Coach Parrish was a true believer in the student/athlete model of the College,” the quarterback said, “and I wanted to go to a place where I would enjoy success in both the classroom as well as the football field.”
The success Broecker enjoyed on the field is there in the record books. His academic success has led him to where he is currently on the Wabash Board of Trustees.
“Beyond the legacy of his football career, Coach Parrish will be fondly remembered as a player’s coach who wanted the best of the person, both on and off the field,” Broecker continued. “He was a teacher first, coach second and he held everyone to be accountable for their actions towards the success of the team and to be role models for the College. These later lessons are the ones that continue to influence me to this day.”
The dual-sport athletes didn’t stop at Chadwick Court.
“Stan helped me recruit dual-sport athletes, of course,” said Rob Johnson, who was already winning every track, field and cross-country meet around when Parrish arrived in ‘77.
“We had a good number of football guys who came to the track team in the spring,” the Hall of Fame coach noted. “We got a lot of help from Stan. We had guys like Mel Gore, Eugene Anderson and Daryl Johnson, who were great football players, who were even greater track guys. There were a lot of them. Coach was one of the best, and his dad (Steve) was a track and field official and long-time coach, who was also a great guy to be around. May Coach rest in peace.”
Johnson was indeed a dual-sport athlete, as his name is all over the football record books. He was another All-American, and is also a member of the Wabash Athletic Hall of Fame, like seven members of the five Parrish teams.
“Coach Parrish was a great coach but an even greater person,” Johnson said. “Behind the scenes he was always encouraging others to make sure I was staying on task in the classroom and my experience at an all male college was going well. His office door was always open to me as a player, but many conversations occurred right there on the practice field everyday on how to get better at the game and in life.”
Johnson, who is Wabash’s all-time touchdown leader and third all-time leading rusher in addition to his track accolades, knew that Coach Parrish was on his side.
“Coach Parrish created an environment of winning at Wabash College and I am so proud to have been a part of that experience,” he continued. “His family graciously opened their home to me in 1982 when I was drafted as a free agent with the Cleveland Browns. I often think back that if I would have made the team Coach Parrish would have been proud since this was his hometown, but I understood from him whether victory or defeat in the game of life or sport you have to keep moving forward. That epitomizes Coach Parrish.”
He left a winning program, but left it in good shape, and the tradition continued.
Greg Carlson, who was on the staff under Parrish for three years, was promoted, like Parrish, when he left.
Carlson would go on to coach the Little Giants for 18 years and is still only one of two coaches with more than 100 wins.
And, showing how long the coaching tree reaches, Carlson, along with former Wabash coaches Mark and Mike Deal, assistants under Parrish, were in touch with Coach and his family the week before he passed away.
“We just called to thank him,” Carlson said. “I just can’t thank him enough. The three of us were the only assistant coaches, and Coach Parrish fit us together. He was like a great cook or baker - he took all the ingredients and made something good out of it. He had an amazing ability to read people. He could unpeel you quickly in an interview, and I am forever grateful to have been part of his staff for three years. I was so fortunate as a young coach.”
The story of Carlson’s hiring was part of that fitting. “I came up for an interview, almost never said a word,” he said. “An hour later I was getting a tour of campus, met with Max Servies (Athletic Director) and two hours after I arrived, I was hired. I think Stan did some homework.”
That three years as an assistant laid the groundwork for Carlson’s successful career at Wabash, and after that.
“He taught me how important your staff is, and how to sort out strengths.” he said. “We had some amazing student-athletes, but he taught us that continuity is key to success. I know so much of my success started with Stan Parrish. When he left, he was the one who told me I had gotten the head coaching job.”
From the success of 40 years ago to the success of today, and the success of tomorrow, the name of Stan Parrish will always be tied tightly into the fabric of what it means to be a football player at Wabash College.
He was truly - Some Little Giant.
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