Twenty-plus years in football reporting have provided incredible opportunities to cover compelling events and meet accomplished men.
There have been Hall of Fame induction ceremonies with the greatest players in the game’s history.
There have been NFL owners meetings with every executive from every team.
There have been Pro Bowls with the league’s best players.
There have been scouting combines in Indianapolis with every upcoming top college prospect.
And, of course, there have been games with the teams, coaches, players and everyone involved.
Yet through all the years and all the interviews and all the encounters, the one man immersed in the sport that I had somehow never met was Bill Parcells.
It’s weird. Unlike every other NFL executive and coach, Parcells doesn’t go to NFL owners meetings. He stays away from Super Bowls unless he is coaching in them. He seldom shows up at the scouting combine. He has not been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
For some reason, some weird twist of fate, I never had met him.
Yet on Thursday, someone from NFL Network mentioned, very casually, that I would be interviewing Parcells on Friday for a piece that would run during our six-and-a-half hour “GameDay Morning” pregame show.
Parcells, I asked?
Parcells, I was told.
At first it sounded like a joke, as if someone at the Network knew Parcells was the only and last NFL personality that I really wanted to meet. But I checked around and it wasn’t. Parcells was in Tampa to promote Gatorade, which former Giants defensive tackle Jim Burt and Hall of Fame linebacker Harry Carson doused him with after New York won Super Bowl XXI. Since then, Parcells became a spokesman for Gatorade, and now his relationship with the company was going to lead to my first interview with him.
Parcells walked into the Gatorade room about 4:15 p.m. ET Friday afternoon. I introduced myself and shook his hand. He sat down across from me. And there it was, my first encounter/interview with him.
Though we never met, it was not hard to feel as if I –- or anyone –- didn’t already know him. He was dynamic. He was forceful. He was colorful, just like he was in every press conference.
He even packed a little news into his Gatorade promotional appearance. Asked about the clause in his contract that allows him to opt out in a 30-day window if Dolphins ownership changes, as it did close to two weeks ago, Parcells said, in his gruff voice, “I’m not going anywhere.”
We talked for 25 minutes. We talked about the Dolphins, his son-in-law Scott Pioli, and the state of the game. I shook his hand when it was done.
My day, my Super Bowl experience and the A-list of football people I always had wanted to meet was complete.