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Bernard Paul Parrish (born April 29, 1936) is an American former college and professional football player who was a cornerback in the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) for eight seasons during the 1950s and 1960s. Parrish played college football for the University of Florida, and thereafter, he played professionally for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL and the Houston Oilers of the AFL. Parrish's football memoirs later stirred controversy.

Bernie Parrish
No. 30
Personal information
Born: (1936-04-29) April 29, 1936 (age 83)
Long Beach, California
Height:5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)
Weight:194 lb (88 kg)
Career information
High school:Gainesville (FL) P.K. Yonge
NFL Draft:1958 / Round: 9 / Pick: 108
Career history
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics
Games played:105
INT return yards:557
Player stats at
Player stats at PFR


Early lifeEdit

Parrish was born in Long Beach, California in 1936.[1] He grew up in Gainesville, Florida, where he attended P.K. Yonge High School[2] and played high school football and baseball for the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave.

College careerEdit

Parrish accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, and played halfback and defensive back for coach Bob Woodruff's Florida Gators football team in 1956 and 1957.[3] Memorably, Parrish was named Associated Press "Back of the Week" for his performance in the Gators' 14–7 win over the Vanderbilt Commodores, including rushing for 111 yards, scoring both touchdowns, kicking both extra points, catching an interception, and making seven tackles—including one to prevent the Commodores' tying score.[4] He also played second base for coach Dave Fuller's Florida Gators baseball team from 1956 to 1958. As a junior in 1958, he batted .433 and led the Gators in runs batted in, hits, doubles and home runs, received first-team All-Southeastern conference (SEC) honors,[5] and was the Gators' first-ever first-team baseball All-American.[6][7]

Parrish decided to forgo his senior year of NCAA eligibility, and accepted a Major League Baseball bonus contract. Parrish returned to Gainesville during the NFL off-season to complete his degree and graduated from Florida with a bachelor's degree in building construction in 1960. He was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great."[8]

Professional careerEdit

The Cleveland Browns selected Parrish in the ninth round (108th pick overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft,[9] and he played for the Browns from 1959 to 1966.[10] Memorably, he returned one interception for ninety-two yards and a touchdown in 1960. Parrish was a key man of the Browns' defense on their run to winning the 1964 NFL championship. In his seven seasons with the Browns, he had twenty-nine interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns.[10] After playing in one game of the 1966 season, Parrish requested that he be released because the Browns asked him to share time at his position with another player,[11] and played the balance of the 1966 season (eleven games) for the Houston Oilers of the AFL before retiring at season's end.[10]

In his eight-year professional football career, Parrish played in 105 regular season games, recorded a total of thirty-one interceptions, and returned those interceptions for 557 yards and three touchdowns.[1]

Life after the NFLEdit

During his time with the Browns, Parrish served as team representative to the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), and later NFLPA vice president. After retiring as a player, Parrish worked with the Teamsters in the late 1960s in an unsuccessful attempt to organize a new Teamsters-affiliated NFL/AFL players' union.

In 1971, Parrish wrote a best-selling book, They Call It A Game, published by The Dial Press, about the economics and politics of the NFL.[12] His book included the controversial allegation that the NFL had fixed the outcomes of some of its games.[13] Some critics, however, expressed the opinion that Parrish had failed to substantiate such claims in any material way.[14]

Parrish enjoyed a second career as a hotel developer before retiring to spend more time with his wife and family.[15] In 2007, Parrish and former Green Bay Packers cornerback Herb Adderley filed a class action suit on behalf of retired NFL players against the NFLPA and Players, Inc., a subsidiary of the NFLPA, over retired players' benefits derived from player image and name licensing fees.[16] While Parrish was eventually dismissed from the suit as a lead plaintiff of the represented class,[17] the trial jury found in favor of the retired players and awarded a $28.1 million judgment against the NFLPA and Players, Inc., including $21 million in punitive damages.[18] The NFLPA appealed the judgment in February 2009,[19] but eventually settled the case without further litigation.[20]

Parrish was a harsh critic of the late NFLPA President Gene Upshaw, and publicly excoriated Upshaw's record on providing disability and medical assistance to retired NFL players. While many retired players agreed with Parrish's criticisms of Upshaw, many of them and other observers believed that Parrish went too far in his attacks against Upshaw when he strongly implied that Upshaw was involved in the death of his first wife. Upshaw's first wife apparently died of natural causes, she and Upshaw had been divorced for over a decade at the time of her death, and police investigators said Upshaw was not a suspect or person of interest in any investigation. A Sports Illustrated article about the rift between retired players and Upshaw made it clear that former players hesitated before contacting Parrish to speak to the press about Upshaw.[21]

Cleveland Browns Legends HallEdit

On October 1, 2017, Parrish was inducted into the Cleveland Browns Legends hall along with Tony Adamly at halftime of a game with the cross-state rival Cincinnati Bengals. [22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b, Players, Bernie Parrish. Retrieved July 9, 2010.
  2. ^, Players, Bernie Parrish Archived February 16, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  3. ^ 2011 Florida Gators Football Media Guide Archived April 2, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 105, 111, 114, 184 (2011). Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  4. ^ Associated Press, "Bernie Parrish Selected As Back Of Week", Gettysburg Times, p. 5 (November 20, 1957). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  5. ^ 2009 Florida Gators Baseball Media Guide, Records Archived July 11, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 130–131 (2009). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  6. ^ 2009 Florida Gators Baseball Media Guide, History Archived October 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, University Athletic Association, Gainesville, Florida, pp. 87 & 89 (2009). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  7. ^ "Parrish, Houser, Make All-American Team", Miami News, p. A41 (June 22, 1958). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  8. ^ F Club, Hall of Fame, Gator Greats. Retrieved December 13, 2014.
  9. ^ Pro Football Hall of Fame, Draft History, 1958 National Football League Draft. Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  10. ^ a b c National Football League, Historical Players, Bernie Parrish. Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  11. ^ Associated Press, "Defensive Back Signs With Oilers"] The Victoria Advocate, p. 14A (September 22, 1966). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  12. ^ "Sports: Superbawl", Time (September 13, 1971). Retrieved June 19, 2010.
  13. ^ Robert H. Boyle, "Bernie Parrish, Still Giving His Rivals Some Hard Shots, Bombs Pro Football", Sports Illustrated (November 1, 1971). Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  14. ^ See, e.g., Paul Zimmerman, "They Call It A Game", The New York Times, p. BR44 (September 26, 1971). Retrieved June 26, 2010.
  15. ^ Les Carpenter, "Parrish Tackles NFLPA Head-On Seeking Better Pensions for Retirees", The Washington Post (June 17, 2007). Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  16. ^ Alan Schwarz, "Pro Football; 2 Former N.F.L. Players Sue Over Sharing of Fees", The New York Times (February 15, 2007). Retrieved June 20, 2010.
  17. ^ Paul Elias, "Former NFL players can sue union over licensing deal", USA Today (May 2, 2008). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  18. ^ Alan Schwarz, "Court Verdict for N.F.L. Retirees Starts New Era", The New York Times (November 11, 2008). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  19. ^ Associated Press, "NFLPA to appeal $28.1 million payout", ESPN (February 5, 2009). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  20. ^ Chris Mortensen, "Sources: NFLPA settles Adderley suit", ESPN (June 4, 2009). Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  21. ^ Gary Smith, "Bitter Battle For The Old Guard", Sports Illustrated (February 4, 2008). Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  22. ^ "Cleveland Browns". Retrieved September 28, 2018.