IOWA CITY, Iowa — Norm Parker has been the defensive coordinator at Iowa so long that it's tough to remember who preceded him.
Now that he's reached 70, Parker feels it's time to hang up his whistle and, as he put it Friday, bounce some grandkids on his knee.
Parker — better known as just "Norm" in these parts — announced Sunday he will call it quits after the Insight Bowl against Oklahoma on Dec. 30.
Parker's unassuming persona and rock-solid defenses, which ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense from 2008-10, have been a hallmark of the Hawkeyes program. He'll be remembered fondly by his players and coach Kirk Ferentz, but Parker said he felt it was time for him to step aside and let someone else have a crack at it.
Parker began his college coaching career in 1968. He had stops at Wake Forest, Minnesota, Illinois, East Carolina, Michigan State and Vanderbilt before spending 13 seasons at Iowa.
"I think you got to be fair to the team, you got to be fair to the program," Parker said Friday. "When it's time to go, it's time to go. I have always said, I never want to coach just to have a job. When you can't do it and do it right, do it the way it should be done, then it's time to let somebody else do it."
Parker, like most of Ferentz's assistants, has been on staff since Ferentz took over for Hayden Fry before the 1999 season.
After a pair of rebuilding seasons, the Hawkeyes got back on track in 2001 with a win in the Alamo Bowl, and the next season the Hawkeyes finished unbeaten in Big Ten and reached the Orange Bowl.
For the most part, winning seasons and strong defenses followed.
Parker had a small bag of tricks, preferring to stick to a basic four-lineman, three-linebacker front that he trained to bend without breaking. It usually worked, and the Hawkeyes soon became known for sending a slew of defenders to the NFL.
The list of players Parker helped into pro ball includes Sean Considine, Matt Roth, Chad Greenway and Pat Angerer. Last April alone, defensive linemen Adrian Clayborn, Christian Ballard and Karl Klug, and safety Tyler Sash were drafted by NFL teams.
"If you had to classify what we had — and we've had some good athletes — but basically I think we've had tough, smart, hard-working guys," Parker said.
That Parker even made it back for his final season is a tribute to his toughness and passion for football.
Parker has been battling diabetes for years, and last fall he had his right foot amputated. He missed most of the 2010 season, returning in time to help the Hawkeyes shut down Blaine Gabbert and Missouri in the Insight Bowl.
Parker persevered with a unit that often struggled through inexperience and is currently 42nd in the nation in scoring defense.
"I think personally it was important just to prove that you could do it," Parker said. To say "the leg ran me off, I didn't want that to happen."
Parker is the American Football Coaches Association FBS assistant of the year, which seemed more like a lifetime achievement award considering the dip his defense took in 2011.
But according to Ferentz, it was a long-overdue honor for a coach who's meant so much to the Hawkeyes.
"I think everybody is aware of Norm's expertise as a defensive coach. The record speaks for itself and the numbers speak for themselves," Ferentz said. "But I think his impact, the effect he had on this football program goes way beyond the football part of things."