John Fina and Glenn Parker’s existence on the football field together extends from two years at Arizona to five seasons with the Buffalo Bills and now as offensive line coaches on opposite sides as part of the coaching staffs where their sons play.
Fina with his son Bruno and Salpointe visit Parker, his son Will and Catalina Foothills for a 4A Kino game at 7 p.m.
This will likely be the last time they will be on the same field in a working capacity that started in 1988 when they began their Arizona careers, Parker as a junior college transfer and Fina as a redshirt freshman from Salpointe.
Bruno and Will are seniors. Bruno is headed to UCLA as an offensive lineman while Will is destined for Colgate as an H-back and tight end.
Glenn said the scenario is “unique, especially in Tucson” of two teammates of seven years dating to 31 years ago — including two appearances in a Super Bowl with Buffalo — coaching their sons on opposite teams in a game.
“Probably not much anywhere else, but here in Tucson it is unique because there are not many ex-NFL guys with kids the same age,” Glenn said. “I just look at it as two friends coaching their kids.”
Just like their dads, Bruno and Will share a friendship. They grew up in Tucson playing football. They know each other so well because of the bond between their dads and their mutual friends that they double-dated at a Salpointe dance last year.
“I know Bruno a little bit from playing against them obviously and we have some mutual friends through Salpointe,” Will said. “It adds a different element to the game when two U of A players’ sons are playing against each other. This will be the third or fourth time this has happened. It’s great to be part of it.”
John and Glenn, both members of the Arizona Hall of Fame, lauded each other for their intelligence and how that helped their careers flourish. They credit their football IQs for impacting the development of their sons. Offensive linemen are perceived to be the grunts on the team, using their brawn, not so much their brain.
That could not be further from the truth when it comes to John and Glenn.
John was a three-time All-Pac-10 Academic selection (1989, 1990 and 1991) at Arizona.
“John’s a smart guy,” Glenn said. “He and I, of the linemen with the Bills, probably had the most in common as far as our interests. We’re both food-and-wine guys. We’re both readers. We might read different things.
“He and I, when we were in the NFL, put ourselves away from football when we weren’t playing.”
Glenn, whose dad was an engineer, did not play sports at Edison High School in Huntington Beach, Calif., and concentrated on his academics instead. He decided to give football a try at Golden West College at Huntington Beach because of his size (he looks like he can still play at 53 years old at 6’5″ and more than 250 pounds). The late Dick Tomey and his staff noticed him at Golden West and Arizona became one of the few schools to offer him a scholarship.
“Glenn was a brilliant football player. He played every position on the offensive line except center. He was the Swiss Army Knife of the Bills’ offensive line,” John said. “In the time that I was there, he played all four positions. And he was generally just the smartest guy on the offensive line with respect to never be on the ground, always know your assignment. Glenn was a battler.”
Bruno’s name itself epitomizes the mix between playing football — what better name than Bruno for a football player? — and being a scholar. He said he was named after a series of baby books.
“The biggest thing was I was a skinny kid growing up. Last year, I weighed 205 pounds. And that’s 30 pounds from what I was the season before that,” Bruno said. “So the biggest thing my dad told me is it’s not about your size, it’s not about your strength, it’s about your speed and your technique. And those were the two things I had to rely on all four years.
“I think that’s where I’m really going to capitalize in the future and right now.”
Bruno, who wears the same No. 70 his dad wore with the Wildcats and Bills, is listed at 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds. Once he gets to UCLA and works in the strength and conditioning program there, expect him to put on at least 40 to 50 pounds.
John, who was 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds as a senior at Salpointe in the 1986 season, sees more potential in his son than he had at the same age.
“Bruno is well beyond where I was,” John said. “I might have been as good as he is my sophomore year in college. The difference is the type of coaching he is getting now. At every level now across the country the coaching is so much better.
“Players are able to study film. Coaches are more precise and they’ve really come to believe in offensive line play as a technical position whereas 50 years ago, it was just, ‘Who’s the biggest beast?’ Bruno makes strides every day and I would say from last year to this year he’s two different players. He has just grown into his body and is so much stronger and is so much bigger. He just has more control over every six-inch step, every hand placement, the philosophy of the play, understanding what we’re trying to achieve. He’s a million miles ahead of where he was last year.”
Will Parker is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound talent who, much like his dad, is a “Swiss Army Knife” when it comes to different positions on the field. A standout linebacker and tight end, Will has been forced to play quarterback the last three weeks because starter Conner Alubowicz has been injured.
Will is not relegated to handing the ball off or only running the ball. Devin Veal, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator who played at Buena and Arizona, has stuck to the game plan of allowing the younger Parker to throw the ball. Will has thrown the ball 75 times with 36 completions for 521 yards with nine touchdowns and only three interceptions.
“Being a pitcher in baseball, like he is, he is able to pick things up pretty quickly,” Veal said. “He has that coordination and intelligence for the game to handle what we ask of him. I had no doubt he could handle playing quarterback.”
TOUCHDOWN FALCONS. Will Parker does it himself on second and goal for Catalina Foothills first score of the night.
“I was always in touch with the offense and knew what everybody was doing,” Will added. “I’m always trying to know everybody’s job on the field and what’s going on at all times. I think that helps my versatility. I think I could play a lot of positions on the field or at least know what they’re doing.”
He credits his dad for “helping me with my football IQ overall being around the game, but more importantly, just the different life lessons and attitudes that can help me be a better football player.”
Will’s twin sister Caroline is a standout volleyball player at Catalina Foothills. Glenn hurried from football practice and the team meal last night to see her play at Sahuaro. The Parker family, which includes mom Casey, a former synchronized swimmer at Arizona, is synonymous with athletic excellence in Tucson.
Fina has a younger son Roman who is embarking on his football career as a sixth-grader. Be ready to hear of his exploits on the field soon.
The genuine respect between the Finas and Parkers, fueled by the admiration the sons have of their respective dads and the pride John and Glenn have in their sons, is one of the best stories in high school sports — and life in general — in Tucson.
“I think it is kind of cool just to see my old teammate’s kid who is going to play football at the next level. My kid is going to the next level. It’s pretty awesome,” John said.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.