IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa safety Tyler Sash visited defensive coordinator Norm Parker in the hospital Monday, and all Parker wanted to talk about was football.
The problem is, Parker can no longer ignore the issues that have kept him away from the game.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that Parker will miss Saturday night's game at No. 24 Arizona after being hospitalized with complications from diabetes. There is no timetable for his return.
Parker, 68, checked into the hospital on Friday because of back pain and didn't coach in last week's 35-7 win over Iowa State.
The rest of No. 9 Iowa's defensive coaches will share duties against the Wildcats (2-0).
"He's diabetic, and diabetes is a very serious disease. I think everybody's interest and approach right now is, 'What do we need to do today to make sure that we're not making anything worse,'" Ferentz said. "Football is really secondary right now in this equation, and I don't know if we're talking about days or weeks. I don't know that. I don't know if anybody knows that right now. But whenever he's ready to come back we'll get him back and going."
Parker is in his 12th season at Iowa and is considered one of the nation's top defensive coordinators. The Hawkeyes (2-0) ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense in 2008 and 2009 and have allowed just seven points per game this season.
Parker has battled diabetes for years, and last summer he had one of his toes amputated. Ferentz said Parker has been fighting through issues since last season.
Despite all that, Parker was at his best during last season's Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech. Iowa's defense held the Yellow Jackets explosive triple-option offense to just 155 yards and one touchdown — the other score coming after a Ricky Stanzi interception — in a 24-14 win.
"He's forgotten more about football than most people have ever learned. He's a smart guy, he's always had a great game plan every week for us. He's missed around here," linebacker Tyler Nielsen said. "At the same time, our other coaches stepped up last week and will do the same this week."
Parker has been in coaching since the mid-1960s, with stops at Eastern Michigan, Wake Forest, Minnesota, Illinois, East Carolina, Michigan State and Vanderbilt before joining the Hawkeyes in 1999.
Parker's defenses usually don't do anything exotic, but what they do they do extremely well.
Iowa had four defensive players named first-team All-Big Ten by the league's coaches in 2009, and linebackers Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds and cornerback Amari Spievey went in the first four rounds of last spring's NFL Draft.
Parker's rallying cry for the defense is "six seconds of hell," a motto imploring his players to go all out on every play. It's a style the Hawkeyes have taken to heart under Parker.
"It motivates us a little bit if he's not there, just knowing that he's watching and expecting the best from us," Sash said.