'Parcells guys' thrilled for coach

8/2/2013 - NFL

OXNARD, Calif. -- After exchanging the cursory "Hey, how are you and how's the family" when they ran into each other in New Orleans before Super Bowl XLVII, Dat Nguyen and Vinny Testaverde -- teammates for only one season with the Dallas Cowboys -- could talk only about one man.

Bill Parcells.

"Just how influential he was on our lives," Nguyen said of his conversation about Parcells. "Yeah, life. You take what you learn from football and you use it in life."

Too small to be a Parcells linebacker, Nguyen became a Parcells guy, winning over the coach who would refer to him as "a football-playing dude."

Too turnover-prone as a quarterback early in his career, Testaverde became a Parcells guy by leading the New York Jets within a half of making a Super Bowl appearance in 1998.

When Parcells goes into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, many Parcells guys will be in Canton, Ohio. In a way, they'll be going in with him.

Lawrence Taylor is a Parcells guy. So too are Phil Simms, George Martin, Jim Burt, Carl Banks, Harry Carson, Jumbo Elliott and so many of those New York Giants who won two Super Bowls with Parcells.

Terry Glenn, famously called "she" by the coach in New England, was a Parcells guy. Keyshawn Johnson, who just wanted the damn ball, was a Parcells guy. Curtis Martin was so much of a Parcells guy that he gave the coach his Jets team Most Valuable Player award, and it was no coincidence that Martin had Parcells introduce him last year at his Hall induction.

Jason Witten, the eight-time Pro Bowl tight end for the Cowboys, remains a Parcells guy. As a rookie in 2003, Witten missed one game with a broken jaw, getting back on the field, in part, by tucking small weights into his sweatpants to make weight.

That's a Parcells guy.

"I don't know [whether] I can define it because it takes many shapes from the range of players not good to good to great," Simms said. "I guess the best way you can say it is, you had to be all-in. All-in. All the time."

If you were a Parcells guy, you were a Parcells guy forever. When Parcells went to New England in 1993, ex-Giants Dave Meggett, Myron Guyton and William Roberts were among those who eventually joined him. When he went to the Jets in 1997, Martin, Ray Lucas and Keith Byars eventually joined him. After a three-year hiatus from coaching, one of Parcells' first decisions after taking over the Cowboys was to trade for Glenn. He eventually had former Jets Richie Anderson, Testaverde, Dedric Ward, Aaron Glenn, Johnson and Jason Ferguson join him. In 2005, he reunited with Drew Bledsoe, whom Parcells took with the No. 1 pick in 1993 while with New England.

Parcells always needed his guys when he took over bad teams.

The Patriots were 2-14 before Parcells arrived and were in the Super Bowl four seasons later. The Jets were 1-15 before he took over and were in the AFC Championship Game in two years. The Cowboys had three straight 5-11 seasons before Parcells took over in 2003 and guided them to the playoffs in his first season.

The Parcells guys would be the leaders. They would talk about the importance of the offseason program. They would spread the Parcells word.

"There's a method," Bledsoe explained to a teammate ready to wilt under Parcells' unrelenting manner. "Trust it."

Parcells pushed, poked, prodded. He scolded, yelled and belittled. He hugged, laughed and cried. The Parcells guys could give all of the same back to him.

"If you can't play, you can't bark," Johnson said. "All the players that have said that are players who could play. If you can hold your own, you can say what you want. Everybody's treated differently. You're never going to hear a player he released or cut say anything good about him. They're all going to say that he was hard, he was this or he was that. Well, that's because you couldn't play. And that's the bottom line."

Players hated it -- yes, hated -- when they were under Parcells' regime, but they missed it when he was gone.

The season after Parcells retired for the first time, Simms was sitting in the weight room with a handful of teammates one Friday afternoon. He remembers Bart Oates speaking up about Parcells being right about what matters most: the camaraderie, the brotherhood built through hard work and adversity.

"Coaches are like parents, and we were the children," Simms said. "At the time, we didn't know better. We thought we had the answers, but then you realize he was right."

Like all of the Parcells guys, Witten regularly communicates with the coach by phone or text message. Because the Cowboys will play in the Hall of Fame Game, Witten will be able to hear his acceptance speech with the rest of the Parcells guys who will be in attendance.

"He's not a guy that soaks up all those honors," Witten said. "That's not why he coached. But to see him on that stage, enjoying those 15, 20 minutes of an amazing road he took and journey to be up there, it's special. And to be a part of it with a handful of other players that were his guys, that'll be a special feeling, too."