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People of Bergen County: Get to Know Bergen County Football Legend Bill Parcells

Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells was born in Englewood, New Jersey on August 22, 1941. With his 81st birthday just a few days away, let’s take a look back at this famous Bergen County native. He was born Duane Charles Parcells, but got the nickname “Bill” while a student at River Dell Regional High School where he was routinely mistaken for another boy named Bill. Since he never liked his first name of Duane, he decided to adopt Bill as his name. During his coaching years, he also received the monikers “The Big Tuna” and “The Tuna”.

Born in Englewood, he spent most of his childhood in Hasbrouck Heights, prior to moving to Oradell prior to his sophomore year. His mom Ida was a stay-at-home mom. His father Charles played quarterback at Georgetown and then went on to work for the FBI, and later had a career as a lawyer. Measuring 6’2” upon entering River Dell, and an athlete, Parcells played high school football, baseball, and basketball. River Dell had great coaches who became important mentors in Parcell’s life. Tom Cahill not only coached him in football at River Dell, but went on to become the head coach at Army. His River Dell basketball coach, Mickey Corcoran continued to advise Parcells throughout his coaching career. “Next to my father, Mickey Corcoran was the most important influence in my life,” Parcells has said. Parcells lived much of his married life in Bergen County as well, residing in Upper Saddle River.

Parcells was a linebacker in college and was selected to play for the Detroit Lions during the seventh round of the NFL’s 1964 draft. Unfortunately, he was cut during training camp. He did not let this stop him, and he immediately turned to coaching. After spending 15 years coaching for schools across the country, he accepted an assistant coaching position in 1979 with the New York Giants. His initial position was short-lived as his family was in Colorado at the time and didn’t want to make the move. He acquiesced and returned home briefly with intentions to sell real estate. His wife realized that Parcells needed football in his life to be happy, and Parcells became the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots in 1980. A year later he was back with the Giants as defensive coordinator. At the end of 1982 Parcells was promoted to head coach.

Prior to his leadership, the Giants had only qualified for the playoffs once in the past decade and had only one winning record in a decade. Within four years, Pacells led the team to their first Super Bowl title and won a second championship in Super Bowl XXV four years later. Parcells retired following the second Super Bowl, but came out of retirement in 1993 to become the head coach of the New England Patriots, which was a struggling franchise at that time. By his fourth season as coach, New England reached Super Bowl XXXI. Parcells left the Patriots after their Super Bowl loss and became the head coach of the New York Jets. With Parcells’ magic touch, the team went from a one-win season to qualifying for the AFC Championship Game by his second year at the helm. Parcells tried retiring for his second time in 1999, but couldn’t keep away from the sport he loved and returned to his career in 2003 as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys. Although he led the Cowboys to two playoff seasons, both ended in first-round defeats. Parcells then officially retired from coaching for the third and final time in 2007.

Following his final retirement from coaching, Parcells has served as a courtesy consultant for the Cleveland Browns since 2014. He was also the vice president of football operations with the Miami Dolphins, a position he held from 2008 to 2010. Parcells was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2013. He is the only NFL coach to lead four different franchises to the playoffs and three to a conference championship game. Another claim to fame is starting the Gatorade victory splash. In 1985 he was doused with a bucket of Gatorade after a victorious game. This celebration is still continued in football celebrations and has now carried over to other sports.

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