John Parrella

John Parrella was a first-team All-Eight defensive tackle at Nebraska in 1992.

Mike Riley is close to announcing his new defensive line coach, and it's a name that will ring quite familiar to the fan base.

Multiple sources have told the Journal Star that former Nebraska all-conference standout John Parrella is expected to take over the position that came open Feb. 5 when Hank Hughes was fired.

While several names for the job were floated in the media, and UCLA's Angus McClure was said to have been interviewed, it's believed Parrella was Riley's top choice and only person offered the job by the Husker head coach.

Riley is yet to make an official announcement on the hire.

Parrella has strong connections to not only Nebraska football, but also Riley.

He finished his Husker playing career in 1992 as a first-team All-Big Eight defensive tackle, then played 12 seasons in the NFL, including three for San Diego while Riley was the Chargers' head coach in 1999-2001. NU defensive coordinator Mark Banker was also with the Chargers during that time.

Parrella was also a Husker teammate of Kenny Wilhite, who earlier this month was promoted to Nebraska's director of high school relations.

The defensive lineman just finished his second year as defensive line coach at Northern Michigan, an NCAA Division II school that last season finished 5-6. In 2013, he was an assistant coach at Chabot (California) Junior College, which won the Golden Gate Conference his only season there.

Prior to that, Parrella started the program at Valley Christian (California) High School and guided the Vikings to four straight North Coast Section Division IV playoff appearances.

He'll have to hit the ground on a sprint in Lincoln, with spring ball beginning March 5. The new D-line coach will have some returning experience in Greg McMullen, Kevin Williams, Kevin Maurice, Freedom Akinmoladun and Ross Dzuris.

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But the task of developing unproven players will be as crucial as anything, as the Huskers need to find production from the likes of Sedrick King, Alex Davis, Carlos Davis, Khalil Davis, Mick Stoltenberg, Daishon Neal, A.J. Natter and Peyton Newell.

While Parrella's coaching background does not run as deep as the man he'd replace, his extensive background as a player is something not many coaches can boast. After his NU career, he played for the Buffalo Bills (1993), the Chargers (1994-2001) and Oakland Raiders (2002-04). He participated in three Super Bowls.

Parrella has told the story of how he used to come home during those NFL offseasons and work at his father's car dealerships, believing that would be his profession after his playing days.

He graduated from Grand Island Central Catholic and joined the NU program as a walk-on in 1988 after having a scholarship opportunity pulled away by Colorado.

He began his Husker career as a tight end, then switched to defensive tackle. Wise move. He piled up 133 of his 137 career tackles during his final two seasons, including 77 and 11½ tackles for loss as a senior.

"He was one of the best ever," former Husker defensive coordinator Charlie McBride once told the Journal Star.

Parrella is, in fact, a member of the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame, inducted in 2011. He was also named to the Nebraska High School Hall of Fame in 2011.

Parrella said in December of 2014 that, even with all his football experience, you're always learning in this game.

"When you get the game in your blood, you keep playing, which I can’t do at my age, or you coach and teach the game," he said. "It's still blocking and tackling. But there is always something new, somebody new, and that keeps me in the game."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7439 or bchristopherson@journalstar.com. On Twitter @HuskerExtraBC.


Husker columnist

Steven, a lifelong Nebraskan, newspaper enthusiast and UNL grad, joined the Journal Star in 1990 and has covered NU football since 1995.

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