In recognition of the Baltimore Ravens signing first round pick Michael Oher to help protect quarterback Joe Flacco, the Baltimore Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week is a player who spent a decade protecting quarterback Johnny Unitas.
Jim Parker did not miss a game for 10 straight seasons as he helped turn the Baltimore Colts into a perennial NFL Championship contender. The Colts did not have a losing record during his career and claimed back-to-back NFL Championships in 1958 and 1959.
Having played both offensive and defensive line at Ohio State and received the Outland Trophy as the top lineman in college football, Parker could have played on either side of the ball in the NFL. Baltimore Colts head coach Weeb Ewbank saw him as the perfect protector of star quarterback Johnny Unitas and entrenched him at the left tackle position during his rookie season.
He played left tackle for the next five and a half years and earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors four times. Midway through the 1962 season Parker was switched to left guard and earned All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors at that spot four times. He finished his career playing right tackle.
In 1973 Parker became the first full-time offensive lineman named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a member of the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1950s and also selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary Team.
He passed away in July 2005 at the age of 71.
If you had a favorite athlete growing up that you would like to see featured as the Baltimore Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Week, send me a nomination by e-mail.