John Parrella was Nebraska raised, the pride of Grand Island. NU defensive coordinator Charlie McBride once ranked him among the top three defensive tackles he had ever coached.
Hard to believe Parrella once dreamed of dominating performances on the Memorial Stadium turf — as a Colorado Buffalo.
In fact, it wasn't until Colorado withdrew Parrella's scholarship offer that the Nebraska boy built like a Mack truck elected to walk on at Nebraska.
In hindsight, Parrella couldn't imagine playing for the team on the other side of the stadium, against the lifelong friends he gained at Nebraska.
After earning three letters and an All-Big Eight honor as a Husker, Parrella became the first NU player selected in the 1993 draft, going in the second round to the Buffalo Bills.
The team reached the Super Bowl in Parrella's rookie season, but he was released by the Bills after refusing to take a pay cut and signed with San Diego.
Parrella reached the Super Bowl again in his first season in San Diego, and from 1999 to 2001 he was coached by future Nebraska coach Mike Riley while with the Chargers.
"As good a person as I’ve been around," Riley said of Parrella after taking the Nebraska job. "Team guy. Character. Leader.
"He was always fun for me. Once in a while in the locker room, someone would ask John, 'What does the N stand for?' And John would make a big production and say, 'Nowledge!' Yeah, he was that guy."
After the 2001 season, Parrella left San Diego and signed with Oakland, where he reached another Super Bowl and played for another future Husker coach. Bill Callahan led the Raiders to the 2002 title game, where they lost to Tampa Bay.
Parrella left Oakland after the 2004 season and signed with St. Louis, but he was cut by the Rams before the 2005 season.
Parrella was inducted into the Nebraska Football Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Nebraska High School Sports Hall of Fame in 2011.
After coaching jobs at the high school and junior college levels, Parrella began work as the defensive line coach at Northern Michigan in 2014.
Played for: Grand Island Central Catholic High, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Buffalo Bills, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams
Best athlete from Nebraska played with or against: Former Nebraska defensive tackle Danny Noonan, "but there are a lot of guys I could say, too many to say."
Best moment as an athlete: "Having my sons watch me play in the Super Bowl. There's nothing better."
At Nebraska: 29 games, 139 tackles, 9.5 sacks
NFL: 172 games (111 starts), 335 tackles, 26.5 sacks, five forced fumbles
Parrella was No. 78 in the inaugural Nebraska 100 list in 2005. See more about the 2005 list »