by Tom Billups, C.S.C.S.
Congratulations to U.S. Eagle lock Alec Parker on earning his 50th test cap at the Rugby World Cup. Earning a test cap is the pinnacle of our sport, but to endeavor and win fifty caps places you in elite company worldwide. I consider myself fortunate to have played along side Alec in many of his early test matches, and as his coach, continued to enjoy his appetite for the game.
Alec’s rugby career originated thorough a typical American pathway, one which saw him excel at our traditional sports first, and then transfer that athleticism onto the rugby pitch. I’m sure the reason he was considered for the Eagles at a young age was due to his ability to compete as an athlete.
If a journalist asked Alec how he got into rugby, I would raise my hand to answer the question for him like a first grader trying to be picked to erase the chalkboard at the end of class. “The game of Rugby was made to be played by men like Alec Parker”, is how I would respond on behalf of Alec. I wouldn’t have to fight him to reply to the journalist’s question, because Alec isn’t one to talk about himself, in fact, you would struggle to meet a more private family man.
My memories of his career are countless; The long bodied, raw-boned lock’s first Rugby World Cup in 1999, where then Eagles head coach Jack Clark confirmed Alec was one of the best young forwards in the tournament. In Australia, during the 2003 tournament, Parker solidified his legacy as one of the toughest men ever to represent America by battling tirelessly in three of the four matches. The Coloradoan was concussed in our loss to Scotland during the team’s second match. Luckily, the national team doctor at the time was Ty Endean, the former offensive tackle for Sacramento State. Anyone smaller and it would have been a real tussle removing Parker from the fray. Rugby World Cup 2007 was no different. Alec, as usual, was leading from the front.
The on-going sacrifice that he made while juggling his responsibilities as a young father, rancher, and test lock are not unusual for players who have spent a number of years with the national team, but that level of sacrifice shouldn’t go unnoticed, it hasn’t gone unnoticed by me.
Tom Billups began his rugby career in 1984 and has spent time as a player in New Zealand, the U.S. and England for domestic teams as well as representing the U.S.A. at international tournaments with the Eagles. After hanging up his boots, Billups got into coaching leading the Eagles and now with University of California – Berkeley. Read the entire bio of Tom Billups as well as Billups first column My Rugby Path and then check out what Billups is saying about the game of rugby in The Billups Column on Rugby Rugby.
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