1970 - 1982 (13 Seasons)
166 Games Played
13 Fumble Recoveries
8 Pro Bowls
Lemar Parrish was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the seventh round of the 1970 NFL Draft. He was the 163rd player picked overall that year. Parrish went to college at Lincoln University of Missouri. Parrish was a Running Back in college. In 1969, Lamar set the schools record for for longest punt return, when he returned a punt 95 yards for a touchdown against Southwest Missouri State. He also set school records for most punt return yards in a game (129 yards on 3 returns), and highest average per punt return in that game (43 YPR). That year, Parrish averaged 16.8 yards per punt return. That, and his career average of 15.5 YPR, are still school records. He made the NCAA All American Team in 1969.
Lemar Parrish is the most famous athletic figure in the schools history since the 1950's, when tennis great Althea Gibson taught there, and Canadian Football League Hall of Fame Running Back Leo Lewis attended the school. Parrish has returned to his alma mater, and is the head coach of the schools football team. Lemar Parrish is in the Lincoln University Hall of Fame.
In his 1970 rookie season, Parrish was incredible. Parrish had 5 interceptions,and scored a touchdown on both a punt return and kickoff return. He averaged 30.1 yards per kick return and recovered a fumble. He also scored on a blocked field goal return. He followed that up next season with 7 interceptions. He took one interception 65 yards for a touchdown, and one fumble for a touchdown. In 1972, Parrish picked off 5 passes and took 2 for touchdowns. He also returned a punt for a touchdown. In 1973, he has 2 interceptions and returned a fumble for a touchdown.
In 1974, Parrish set a still standing Bengals record with an NFL leading 18.8 yards per punt return average. He also scored 2 touchdowns on punt returns. One went for 90 yards and is presently the 2nd longest in Bengals history. He also recovered a fumble and took it 47 yards for a touchdown. In 1977, Parrish had 3 interceptions and took one in for the last touchdown of his career.
After the 1977 season, Parrish was traded to the Redskins after a contract dispute. Parrish was traded with defensive end Coy Bacon by the Bengals to Washington for the Redskins’ first-round pick in the 1979 draft. That first-round pick ended up being the 12th overall selection, which Cincinnati used to pick running back Charles Alexander out of Louisiana State. Parrish was not asked to return kicks on the Redskins. Parrish made a immediate impact on the Redskins defense his first year with 4 interceptions. The next year, he had 9 interceptions. He followed that up with 7 interceptions in 1980. Parrish left the Redskins after 1981, and joined the Buffalo Bills in 1982. He retired after that year.
Lemar Parrish is the Bengals All Time leader in touchdowns scored by "return or recovery" with 13. This is still tied 3rd All Time in NFL history with 2 others. Parrish’s two interceptions returned for TDs is still tied for the most in a game, with many others in NFL history. He was also the only player in franchise history ever to score 2 "return or recovery" touchdowns in a single game, which he did separate 3 times.
When he retired, his 3 fumble returns for touchdowns tied an NFL record. He still 4th All Time in Bengals history for interceptions in a career, and 2nd in touchdowns scored by interception. His 4 punt returns for touchdowns ranks 1st in Cincinnati Bengals history. He also is 1st in career average for kickoff returns with 24.7, and touchdowns in a season on kick off returns.
Parrish also is 1st in Bengals history with interceptions made in one game, touchdowns returned via interceptions in a season and a single game. He ranks 2nd All Time with 130 punt returns. He also ranks 2nd in Bengals history for punt return yardage in a season and career. He is 3rd in franchise history in interception return yardage in a career. His 95 yard kick off return currently is the 6th longest in Bengals history.
Parrish did not win the 1970 Rookie of the Year Award probably because the Bengals had 2 players win the award the two previous seasons, even though he had a superior season to the winner, 49ers CB Bruce Taylor. When he left the Bengals, Parrish was the Bengals All Time leader in punt return yards in a career and season. Lemar Parrish is a member of the Cincinnati Bengals 40th Anniversary Team.
Lemar Parrish epitomized the definition of "play maker" in his career. He was a shut down Cornerback who teams tried to avoid. He would make the opponents cringe when he was asked to return kicks. Parrish teamed with Ken Riley to form, perhaps, the best CB duo in the NFL in the 1970's. Parrish was noted for his ability to stop the run, which is something he had to supply often due to the Bengals porous front seven. Safety Tommy Casanova was a beneficiary of this tandem, and made 3 Pro Bowls from 1972 to 1977. Casanova retired after Parrish left the Bengals.
Teams could not beat the Bengals by passing the ball, but they would win by running the ball up the middle. The Bengals often challenged the great Steelers teams of the 1970's, but would come up short. The pass defense was never the reason. While with the Redskins, Parrish also made fellow CB Joe Lavender a better player. Lavender made the Pro Bowl twice in his career, the same years that Parrish did.
Parrish was a complete player. He could do it all. His penchant for taking the ball to the end zone was prodigious. He made his teams better,his teammates better, and now is teaching his students to be better. I find it amazing to see Lemar Parrish yet to be inducted into Canton. Recent inductee Roger Wehrli went in with finally, so hopefully the voters are going to right long standing wrongs. It would be fitting to see Parrish and Riley inducted together.
Notable Players Drafted In 1970 (* Denotes Canton Inductee)
1. Terry Bradshaw, QB, Pittsburgh *
7. Mike Reid, DT, Cincinnati
9. Cedric Hardman, DE, San Francisco
10. Ken Burrough, WR, New Orleans
13. Doug Wilkerson, OG, Houston
17. Bruce Taylor, CB, San Francisco
18. Norm Bulaich, FB, Baltimore
19. Steve Owens, RB, Detroit
22. Jack Reynolds, LB, LA Rams
23. Duane Thomas, RB, Dallas
24. Raymond Chester, TE, Oakland
29. Jim Mandich, TE, Miami
30. Dennis Shaw, QB, Buffalo
31. Leo Brooks, DT, Houston
36. Joe "Turkey" Jones, DE, Cleveland
39. Art Malone, RB, Atlanta
43. Bill Brundige, DE, Washington
46. Richard Caster, WR, NY Jets
53. Mel Blount, DB, Pittsburgh *
55. Tim Foley, DB, Miami
66. Charlie Waters, DB, Dallas
76. Gerald Irons, DE, Oakland
80. Ed George, OT, Pittsburgh (CFL Hall of Fame)
110. Ron Saul, OG, Houston
114. Manny Sistrunk, DE, Washington
153. Pat Toomay, DE, Dallas
159. Jake Scott, DB, Miami
201. Mike Holmgren, QB, Saint Louis Cardinals
204. Rich Saul, OG, LA Rams
218. Jim Otis, FB, New Orleans
248. Joe Dawkins, RB, Houston
259. Stu Voight, TE, Minnesota
287. Butch Davis, DB, Chicago
335. Mark Washington, CB, Dallas
346. Mark Moseley, K, Philadelphia
348. Doug Sutherland, DT, New Orleans