Lenny Moore can hardly attend an NFL function without some gnarly old linebacker wagging his finger at the 78-year-old Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame running back and telling Moore something he already knows.
"Lenny," the old-timer will say, "I had a bead on you so many times out there, I was going to knock the living hell out of you. But then I'd look up and, all of a sudden, here comes Jim Parker — and he'd get me first."
Moore will listen, smile and nod. Then he'll look skyward and thank the man upstairs — No. 77, the big lug with the horseshoe on his helmet — for running interference.
Parker, the first full-time offensive lineman inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, died in 2005. But his legacy lives on.
"Jim was top grade, and I relied on him," Moore said. "When I got the ball, I knew to stick right on his hip. If [defenders] knocked him down, they'd get me. But how often did they knock him down?"
Besides carving out daylight for Colts running backs for 11 years (1957 through 1967), Parker was a fierce pass-blocker, fending off attackers on Johnny Unitas' blind side who were itching to maul the stoop-shouldered quarterback.
"Jim took on deadly pass rushers and totally neutralized them, allowing Unitas to go about his work," said Raymond Berry, the Colts' star receiver. "He was one of the most significant players we ever drafted.
"Back then, the Chicago Bears had a massive defensive end, Doug Atkins, who — at 6-foot-8 and 260 pounds — was our No. 1 villain. Well, when we drafted Parker No. 1 from Ohio State, we put him at left tackle ... and never heard from Atkins again."
Said Berry: "I can still see Atkins [a Hall of Famer] leaping forward and grabbing Parker with both hands, as if to flip him. He'd wrench right, and then left. The fireplug never moved. All Doug got out of it was a wrenched back."
The blocks Parker put on Andy Robustelli in the 1958 championship game kept the New York Giants' rugged defensive end at bay, allowed Unitas to march the Colts downfield ... and likely won the title for the Colts, Berry said.
Named first-team All-Pro eight straight years, Parker did it the hard way: four times each at tackle and guard.
"To move from one of those positions to the other calls for a whole new measure of ability," Moore said. "But Jim did it, and made All-Pro at both."
In 1994, Parker was a consensus selection for the NFL's 75th anniversary team. And when the New York Daily News commissioned a poll to name the greatest players of the 20th century, Parker landed at No. 20.
"When I'm gone, I'd like to be known as the best offensive lineman that ever lived," he told The Baltimore Sun in a 2000 interview.
Few players worked as hard, Gino Marchetti said. As a rookie, the 275-pound Parker asked the Colts' star defensive end for tips.
"Would you teach me to block guys like you?" he said.
For weeks, the two stayed late, one future Hall of Famer sharing his pass-rushing secrets with another.
"Jim worked like hell at it," Marchetti said. "Finally, one day, he knocked me on my butt a few times.
"I told him, 'Hey, Parker, you know it all now.'
"The rest is history."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun