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Gold and Black Illustrated, Vol 26, Digital 5

Gold and Black is a multi-platform media company that covers Purdue athletics like no one else.

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Page 13 of 92

GOLD AND BLACK ILLUSTRATED OLUME 26, ISSUE 5 14 E ugene Parker was a pioneer in a profession often defined by its vitriol, by its participants' willingness to do what the other guy won't. He was a big-time agent, a game-changer in his field, swimming — and thriving, on his own terms — in that shark tank up until his death this month at the age of 60. I didn't know Eugene Parker, never met him, but I do know a lot of people who do, and did, and I will say this: I have never heard a bad word about the man, not even a lukewarm one, really. And, I repeat, he was an agent, a job where if people aren't saying bad things about you, you either are A) not doing your job or B) just special enough a human being to transcend the conditions on the ground in your profession. By every account — every account, and in no uncertain terms — Parker was just that: Special. He is widely credited for being a pioneer for African-Amer- icans in sports; for impacting the lives, and not just the bank accounts, of scores of clients; for being an innovator in his field; and for existing in that field while keeping his soul intact, quite possibly his greatest accomplishment of all. And he did it with the sort of gentility and modesty — a "gentleman," as Matt Painter called him — for which so many will remember him. It took Parker's death for most casual sports followers to learn of his ample legacy, of course, because in a look-at-me profession, Parker's modesty compelled him to direct eyes elsewhere. Again, I never knew the man and normally am not big on second-hand testimonials of character, but when the mes- sage is unanimous, I'm willing to bend. The world, sports and otherwise, will miss Eugene Parker. Purdue will miss Eugene Parker. Though he may not have been the most mainstream name to the everyday fan, especially those of a certain gen- eration, Parker was a big, big deal, and any association a school can have to excellence is a wonderful thing. In a more contemporary example, Drew Brees is the em- bodiment of excellence. I have known Drew Brees, though not in any meaningful way, for a decade-and-a-half now. That's how long he's been gone from Purdue, on to bigger and better things in the NFL, then whatever comes next, and it could be anything. Like, anything. He might run for president one day for all we know. Yet, here was Brees back on campus a couple weekends ago stumping for his alma mater, a place he no longer owes any debt to, if he ever did at all, and a place he could distance himself from. People like Brees, they don't have to associate them- selves with anything short of excellence. You know, for the brand and all. And Purdue football is not what it once was, to say the least. Yet, here's been Brees, giving his money and his time and his platform, to trying to be part of its solution. It's a selfless act, tax considerations aside. This, on top of all the money he's given and exposure he's given Purdue, where the football program he helped rebuild has plummeted to depths almost unimaginable back in his days. At this stage of his career, and life, Brees has no need to associate himself with anything but excellence. It's good for the brand. Yet, loyalty and gratitude are clearly things he values. Giv- en the circumstances, that's special. People like Eugene Parker and Drew Brees, they're spe- cial. The reality is Purdue was just part of their story — people like them tend not to fail, no matter where they're schooled — and Purdue's fortunate to have had them, to have been part of their stories. We talk so much about the present and the future, maybe not enough about the past. It's important to remember and embrace the past. It's important for schools and programs to keep their circles tight and families, real or figurative, close. You can never do enough for your former players. They're one of your greatest resources if you've done things that right way. No one can carry your banner more effectively than your alumni. Eugene Parker and Drew Brees have given Purdue at large something to be profoundly proud of. Neubert can be contacted at Two of Purdue's Greatest Products From Editor Brian Neubert

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