We are taking it upon ourselves to do what the Bengals' franchise has failed and refused to do during the past 46 years -- compile a true Ring of Honor for Bengals fans. Each day, we're presenting a candidate for the Ring of Honor and educating Bengals fans on the great history of the franchise for which they root, and the great players that have donned the stripes over the years. After our 10 candidates are presented, you, the fans, will vote for the first five players to be inducted into the Cincy Jungle Bengals Ring of Honor's inaugural class. Let's get started with our next candidate!
Lemar Parrish (20)
Position: Corner Back
Bengals Career: 1970-1977
Drafted: 7th Round - 163rd Pick
As perplexing as it may be that Ken Riley and his 65 interceptions are not in the Hall of Fame, his partner for eight years - Lemar Parrish - is considered by many to have been even better than Riley. Drafted in the 7th round out of Lincoln University of Missouri, Parrish did not have the interceptions Riley had (25 with the Bengals; 47 career), but he had the Pro Bowls Riley never did. In his eight seasons with the Bengals, Parrish went to the Pro Bowl six times. In his 13 year overall career, Parrish visited the Pro Bowl eight times and his 47 career interceptions are still good for T-47th on the all-time list.
Like Riley, one of the most amazing aspects to the success of Lemar Parrish is that Parrish was not a CB prior to entering the league. Prior to being drafted by the Bengals, Parrish was an All-American running back, and like Riley, he was immediately converted by the great Paul Brown to CB. Also like Riley, he made Brown look like a genius. For eight seasons, the Bengals presented one of the best cornerback duos in the league, with a former QB and former RB. From 1970-1977, Riley and Parrish combined for 57 interceptions - six of which they returned for touchdowns.
While Riley and Parrish had similar successes at corner and similar routes to the cornerback position, their personalities and style of play were a stark contrast. Riley was the quiet workmanlike type while Parrish was the loud, brash and electric type - he was Deion Sanders of the ‘70's. Along with his abilities at corner, Parrish (like Sanders) also excelled in the return game and had a knack of returning turnovers for touchdowns. As noted by our very own Josh Kirkendall in a 2011 piece on Cincy Jungle, Parrish scored 12 touchdowns as a Bengal and scored them every way possible (13 total touchdowns - 4 punt returns, 4 interception returns, 3 fumble returns, 1 kickoff return, 1 blocked FG return).
Parrish holds the franchise record for punt return average in a season (18.78 - 1974), punt return TDs (4), most punt return TDs in a season (2 - 1974), kick return average (24.66), interceptions returned for a TD in a season (2 - 1972), interceptions returned for a TD in a game (2 - 12/17/72 - Houston) and interceptions in a game (tied with Riley - 3 INTs on 12/17/72 - Houston). Parrish also ranks 2nd in franchise history for interceptions returned for a TD (4) Riley had five and for longest PR for a TD (90 yards).
Unfortunately, like many Bengals greats, Parrish began to sour on management. Parrish took issue with the way Paul Brown treated his players - most notably his stars and veterans. Under Paul Brown, Parrish was quoted as saying that veterans were: "treated like a kid out of college. Paul wants to play his stars down, he doesn't want to pay anything. ... Paul never showed any affection for the guys."
In 1976 Parrish demanded a trade. His demand was not met by the Bengals and in 1977, after his contract expired, Parrish joined the Washington Redskins. Parrish was no longer used to return kicks and punts in Washington and as a result, turned in some of his best years at corner. After 4 interceptions in 1978, Parrish recorded 16 interceptions between 1979 and 1980 (9 and 7 respectively) while earning 2 more Pro-Bowl elections.
Regardless of how Parrish left Cincinnati, he will go down as one of, if not the best, cornerbacks in franchise history.
Resume For Induction
- 6 Pro-Bowls in his 8 seasons with the Bengals
- 4th most INTs in franchise history (25)
- 2nd in franchise history for INTs returned for a TD (4 - Riley 5)
- 2nd longest PR for a TD in franchise history (90 yards - Pickens 92 yards)
- T-47th in NFL history with 47 career interceptions
- 13 total TD returns - 4 punt returns, 4 interception returns, 3 fumble returns, 1 kickoff return, 1 blocked FG return
- 1974 NFL punt return leader (18.78 avg)
- Lead the Bengals in INTs 4 times (1970, 1971, 1972, 1977)
- Single season punt return average (18.78 - 1974)
- Punt return TDs (4)
- Single season punt return TDs (2)
- Career kick return average (24.66)
- Single season INTs returned for a TD (2 -1972)
- INTs returned for a TD in a single game (2 - 12/17/1972)
- Most INTs in a single game (3 - tied with Riley)
Blemishes on Resume:
None. Parrish should be a surefire Bengals Ring of Honor member and quite frankly, should be a surefire Pro Football Hall of Fame member as well.
A great debate can ensue when talking best cornerback in Bengals franchise history - Riley vs Parrish. What can't be debated is the fact that both were great. What also can't be debated is the fact that Parrish was voted to the Pro-Bowl in six of his eight Bengals seasons and eight of his overall 13 seasons. That, my friends, is Ring of Honor/Hall of Fame worthy.