Jackie Parker - Quarterback - 1963-65 - Mississippi State
Rob Malich - Toronto Argonauts website - 1996
Many people who have been around long enough feel that Jackie Parker is the greatest player ever in the history of the Canadian Football League.
It's hard to argue with that statement, although the likes of Flutie, Jackson, Lancaster, Reed and Kepley might have something to say about that. Voted the player of the quarter-century between 1950-1975, the guy they used to call "Spaghetti Legs" could dominate a game like few before him or since.
An all-star with the Eskimos for eight years in a row (1954-61), including three at running back and five at quarterback, Parker was the most versatile player in a versatile era, when playing both ways was the norm. He also excelled at defensive back, and is most famous for his 84-yard defensive touchdown on a fumble in the 1954 Grey Cup, a 26-25 Edmonton win over Montreal. It was the first of three titles in a row for the Eskimos, who defeated Montreal in 1955 and 1956 as well.
40 years later, the Eskimos are back in the Grey Cup in Hamilton this year, and Parker is on hand as well, one of 12 CFL legends who will kick off the week's festivities with the Kickoff Luncheon and Auction at the Hamilton Convention Centre on Thursday, November 21 before about 1,200 people.
"So far, it looks like it's going to be a very successful week," said Parker. "We were treated great at the Grey Cup in Winnipeg a few years back, and Hamilton's treating us well now. We're really enjoying ourselves."
As for who will win Sunday's game, Parker is leaning towards the Eskimos, even though he did play three years with the Double Blue in the mid-60's.
"I really enjoyed living in Toronto," said Parker, who played on three consecutive last-place teams under coaches "Nobby" Wirkowski and Bob Shaw. "We didn't win too many football games, but we played hard."
After his stint in Toronto, the three-time league MVP (1957, 1958 and 1960) moved over to finish his career with the B.C. Lions from 1966-68. Parker then coached the Lions for a couple of seasons, and returned to the sidelines with the Eskimos for five years in the 1980's. He coached in one Grey Cup game 10 years ago, a 39-15 Edmonton loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Today, Parker still holds an administrative position with the Eskimos, hence his allegiance to that team.
"I still go to the football office and do something every morning for the Eskimos," said Parker, who was elected to the CFL Hall-of-Fame in 1971. The Hall is located across the street from the Convention Centre and at the heart of the action in downtown Hamilton, where the main core has been closed off to traffic from Thursday to Sunday.
As for the game itself, Parker likes the Eskies in a nailbiter. "We play a type of game where we can hang in there," said Parker. "I expect it to be close right until the end."