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Alouettes' Billy Parker makes smooth transition from player to coach

Alouettes' Billy Parker makes smooth transition from player to coach
Alouettes' Billy Parker makes smooth transition from player to coach

Former Alouettes defensive-back Billy Parker is enjoying his first training camp as a defensive assistant coach. John Mahoney / Montreal Gazette

LENNOXVILLE — He was their teammate for eight seasons. And now, Billy Parker is their boss. But there’s no ego or power trip involved here, no ultimatums.

“We’re working together. I have a job. They have a job. And we hold each other accountable. And we’re working through this whole process together,” Parker explained. “I’m not their boss. We’re all in this together. We’re going to try and get something accomplished.

“It’s not weird. It’s been a natural transition.”

Parker, 35, was a fixture in the Alouettes’ secondary. But he spent most of last season injured, subsequently retired and was named a defensive assistant coach on Jacques Chapdelaine’s staff in January.

While it would be natural for Parker to coach Montreal’s defensive backs — and he figures to work closely with the unit — defensive coordinator Noel Thorpe doesn’t like giving specific titles to his assistants. He wants them well versed in the entire defensive scheme.

It became clear early in Parker’s career he would eventually transition into coaching. He coached in the Indoor Football League and the Southern Indoor Football League with Richmond. And when he was playing Arena Football with New York before coming to the Canadian Football League, Dragons head coach Weylan Harding gave Parker additional responsibilities.

“I think he’s transitioning into coaching very well,” said defensive-back Jovon Johnson, entering his second season with Montreal. “He knows the game. He knows how to teach the game to us. He’s doing a tremendous job with us. You have to respect that.

“Yes, he’s technically our boss. When you have veteran guys that you play with, you kind of have a mutual respect for one another. At the end of the day, he does get to tell us what to do and how to do things and he controls that. We follow suit. That’s just the way it goes.”

Only linebacker Chip Cox and rush-end John Bowman remain from Parker’s 2009 rookie season, making the move less awkward. Indeed, the Als virtually overhauled their secondary last year, releasing Mitchell White and Dominique Ellis at training camp.

“I know when things are done the right way and when a team’s successful, I know how positive that can be on the life of an individual,” Parker explained. “The right way is taking care of your opportunities, respecting the game, respecting yourself. Being fuelled by your passion, which is the game. If you do those things right, the reward is so great.

“I’m just trying to stress that.”

Meanwhile, the results of an MRI on quarterback Darian Durant’s left knee were negative, meaning his injury is not serious. Now it becomes a question of how well and quickly he reacts to treatment. “He came to the meetings (Tuesday). He walked there. He didn’t favour the leg. It’s very positive,” Chapdelaine said.

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