One of the most prominent and respected men in the NFL, Eugene Parker, has passed. He died of cancer at age 60. His reputation was that of a shrewd and ruthless negotiator. His magic was using escalators in contracts, and he knew how to get it done.
He maximized so many NFL players’ contracts that they loved him. He could be trusted. They called Parker a father figure. He was unique, honest, mild-mannered and God-fearing. He was a basketball star at Purdue University and was drafted by the five-time NBA champion San Antonio Spurs.
Parker passed on going to the NBA. He decided to become a grad assistant at Valparaiso University, where he earned his law degree.
My son Larry Jr. called me late last Thursday with the news that his agent, Parker, had passed. I have been in a daze since he told me. Next weekend is the 12th Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Benefit Friday at 6 pm at the Minneapolis Event Center. Parker and his lovely wife have attended every one of my foundation events
I always looked forward to talking life and football with Parker. I had to search and find Parker back in 2004, the year my son Larry Jr. was the third overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft.
Parker’s list of clients is a Who’s Who — Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Ron Woodson, Curtis Martin, Walter Jones — all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also represented Jason Pierre Paul, Jarius Byrd, Michael Crabtree, Greg Jennings and Alshon Jeffrey.
You hear so many horror stories about athletes going broke after their MLB, NFL, NBA or NHL careers come to an end. I interviewed 50 different agents before deciding on Parker. When you lose your wife, as I did the year before to cancer, you have to make certain you make no mistakes and take good care of your children, continuing to lead and support their dreams and careers.
I had to have the right agent to represent Larry Jr. I knew he was special and I wanted to maximize his value and position going into the NFL Draft. Remember, Larry Jr. was in college for only two years, at the University of Pittsburgh — that’s rare. Parker delivered big time for Larry Jr., negotiating a six-year, $60 million deal. Twenty million dollars was guaranteed!
Parker was a man of great character and faith, and everything he told me he would do he did. Larry Jr. is a nine-time Pro Bowler, but you still have to maximize the contract through relationships and values. It’s business.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones once said, “Eugene Parker is who I would call to represent me right now if I needed an agent.” Deion Sanders said, “He was the best human being I’ve met almost 30 years ago. He did every deal I had. My God, I’ve lost so much in one man.”
I cannot emphasize enough what a quality human being he was. I know much pain is felt across the NFL players’ community. The greatest honor I can pay him is this: My son has earned $130 million over his 12-year NFL career. Parker has negotiated all four of my son’s deals. He called me on each one.
Larry Jr. is listed among the top 10 all-time money earners in NFL history. Larry Jr. is a receiver; the other nine — Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, etc. — are all quarterbacks. Bless you, Mr. Parker. You will be missed, my friend, and thank you for being a man of your word and taking care of my son.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm, and at www.Gamedaygold.com. He also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Follow him on Twitter at FitzBeatSr. Larry welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.