Josh was originally signed by the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent out of San Jose State in 2001 as a linebacker. For two years after that, he struggled to keep a spot on the practice squad, switching positions to fullback and making the Philly roster in 2004. When starting FB Jon Ritchie tore an ACL in September of that year, Parry stood in impressively enough to help his team make it to Super Bowl XXXIX on February 6, 2005. Losing to the Patriots in a 24-21 squeaker was disheartening, but Parry was able to rebound when it was announced that he would be the Eagles’ starting fullback in 2005.
Following that season, the Eagles were looking to move Thomas Tapeh into the lead fullback spot. When Seattle fullback Leonard Weaver suffered a high ankle sprain in the final preseason game against the Raiders, Parry’s availability became Seattle’s gain. He will spend his sixth season in an NFL uniform, using his determination to constantly beat the odds.
It’s an impressive story until you hear what his brother went through – and it’s then that you really understand what keeps Parry’s heart beating so fiercely.
On September 18, 2003, Neil Parry ran down the field on one San Jose State punt return against Nevada. He was active, looking for a block, but he didn’t knock anybody down, to his dismay. “That's all I wanted, was to get out there and get a hit. I just ran down the field," he said at the time.
In truth, nobody cared whether he made a play or not, because he had made it back to the field three years and 26 operations after losing his right leg in a horrific on-field injury. In October of 2000, Parry severely broke his leg on a special teams play. The injury was so bad, and the subsequent infection so severe, that the leg was taken nine days later.
Josh Parry, a team captain and star linebacker on the San Jose State team at the time, saw his brother vow to play football again just hours after the amputation. "You just don't lose your leg playing football," Josh told the Boston Globe in February of 2005. "You just don't go through a life-changing event playing a game you love, you know?"
While Neil went through rehab and discovered the availability of prosthetics that might help him realize his dream, he also focused on his brother. As Josh said before Super Bowl XXXIX, "When the injury happened, my senior year, we had about five games left in the season. I wasn't having fun. In fact, I was feeling really bad. But I'll never forget the conversation we had when he was laying in bed and found out the leg had to be amputated."
All Neil wanted to know was whether Josh was still going to play. Josh told his brother that he wasn’t having fun – that the horrible accident, watching his brother’s glazed expression as the bones in his leg showed through skin on the field – had affected him too deeply for him to be able to bring everything he had to the game.
"And he said, `Look, if you're not going to play for yourself, then play for me,'” Josh has recalled many times. :Ever since then, it has stuck with me - in my heart and in my head - I'll never forget it."
Parry was back on the field the next afternoon – amassing 18 tackles for the Spartans. He never looked back, buoyed by his brother’s resolve. The two had been inseparable since childhood, and the spiritual connection was never stronger than when Neil began the long journey back to the dream, and Josh was completed by the example.
"Inspiration is not the word…it goes so far beyond that. I would see him put in the hours in the weight room. And I'd be there helping him. You could see the desire in his eyes, in his face. He wanted to be on the field, and I'd just yell at him, `This is all about the day you are going to come back! This is all for the day you step back on that field!' We had some emotional times, we really did."
When Neil became the only non-kicker to take the field in an NCAA game, Josh was in the stands. And it was soon after that game, ironically, that things began to turn around for Josh.
He was cut four times in 2004 alone, even after the conversion to fullback. Only the injury to Jon Ritchie saved him, in the often cruel way that things happen in this game. The former fringe player proved to be a demon on special teams and in opening holes for scatback Brian Westbrook as the Eagles erased years of postseason disappointment and appeared in the franchise’s second Super Bowl.
Neil has done radio commentary for his alma mater’s team, and wants to be a coach someday. Josh hopes to help the Seahawks return to the Super Bowl any way he can trying to be that rare player to appear in three Super Bowls in a row. This is a guy who will do anything to win – a "Ruskell guy” to the core, and the roots of his love of the game have grown so deep, on so many levels, with so many stories.
Josh’s victories are Neil’s as well – the brother who still plays needs the one who no longer will.
"Would I have made it if Neil didn't get hurt?" Josh asked himself a few days before Super Bowl XXXIX, "Boy, now that's a tough question. I don't know, I really don't. I always thought I was good enough, but without Neil, I'm not sure the desire would have been there for as long as it was."
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET and a staff writer for Football Outsiders. Feel free to e-mail him here.