Bob Parsons, a star tight end for Penn State in Joe Paterno’s early years as head coach who became a record-setting punter with the Chicago Bears, passed away last Friday at the age of 72.
A Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, native, Parsons began his varsity career at Penn State as a quarterback in 1969, a year that ended with Paterno’s second consecutive undefeated season. Parsons played sporadically at quarterback, throwing for a total of 394 yards and two touchdowns as a backup over the ‘69 and ‘70 seasons.
After 1970, Parsons moved from quarterback to tight end, where he had much more success. In 1971, Parsons caught 30 balls for 489 yards and five touchdowns— all three teams highs— and helped Penn State to an 11-1 season that ended with a 30-6 thrashing of favored Texas in the Cotton Bowl.
Parsons played well enough in 1971 to be selected by the Chicago Bears in the fifth round of the 1972 NFL Draft.
He played his entire 11-year NFL career in the Windy City, becoming the team’s punter in 1974. His 884 career punts are still a Bears record, and his 114 punts in the 1981 season remain an NFL record.
In 1983, Parsons moved to the upstart USFL, joining the Birmingham Stallions for a season. After that year, he retired and became a real estate appraiser.
Parsons is survived by his wife, Denise J., who he married in 1985, as well as his three children, two grandchildren and two siblings.