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Rams’ Cornerback Ties Sanders With Seventh TD

October 21, 1996

ST. LOUIS (AP) _ Move over, Deion Sanders. You’ve got company at the top.

St. Louis Rams cornerback Anthony Parker isn’t anywhere close to being an elite player, considering the team brought in another in training camp hoping he’d take the job. He’s the slowest guy in the defensive backfield, he’s undersized a bit at 181 pounds and he makes just a fraction of the money the Dallas Cowboys’ superstar rakes in.

But in one respect _ touchdowns _ he’s Sanders’ equal.

Parker’s 92-yard interception return in Sunday’s 17-14 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars was his seventh career defensive touchdown _ four on interceptions and three on fumbles. That matches Sanders for the lead among active players, and it’s only three away from the career mark of 10 set in the 1960s-70s by Ken Houston.

``Anthony Parker is the thief,″ said Todd Lyght, the Rams’ other cornerback. ``He steals the goods and gets away scot-free.

``He’s the classic bad guy.″

Parker has seven touchdowns in seven seasons _ and three in the last two years against expansion teams. He returned a fumble for a touchdown in the 1995 against Carolina, and had an interception return against Carolina this year.

``TD Parker?″ free safety Keith Lyle said. ``I don’t know what it is about this little thing he’s doing with these touchdowns. It seems like every time he touches the ball he scores.″

Parker’s not sure why he scores so often. Maybe it’s because, as was the case on his interception return against Mark Brunell, he’s often out alone on the sideline.

``I’ve been fortunate, I guess,″ Parker said. ``I just have that mentality when I get the ball I’ve got to score, it’s just the way I’ve always been.″

In high school, Parker was a running back and the Arizona scoring champion during his junior and senior seasons in 1982 and ’83, finishing his prep career with 54 touchdowns. As a senior, he rushed for 1,277 yards and 18 touchdowns, including six in a single game.

He was converted to defensive back at Arizona State by assistant coach Willie Shaw, now the Rams’ defensive coordinator, but it hasn’t kept him from getting his hands on the ball. In 1991, he led the World League with 11 interceptions, two for touchdowns. Playing for Minnesota in 1992, he scored his first NFL touchdown on a 58-yard fumble return against Houston. In 1994 he returned two interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns.

``I’ve always felt like I was an offensive player,″ Parker said. ``I just have that mentality when I get the ball I’ve got to score.″

Last year, he led the Rams with four fumble recoveries and had two interceptions.

``Anthony is just a very alert player,″ coach Rich Brooks said. ``Anticipation is his biggest ally. He has great ability to read and react to what he sees.″

Parker’s latest touchdown was the toughest. It was a 92-yard foot race to the end zone down the right sideline, with Brunell and wide receiver Keenan McCardell, the intended receiver, in hot pursuit.

Brunell had the best shot at about midfield and Parker escaped by veering in his direction, then cutting away.

``When I got to about the 50 I was just exhausted,″ Parker said. ``Then I saw the quarterback. I’d never seen a quarterback move that fast, so I tried to do my best to not run out of gas.

``It was a long way, it was forever, it seemed like. McCardell was chasing me and it seemed like he got tired, too.″

Parker just kept running. Unlike Lyle, who had a chance to go all the way before he started waving his arms as he passed the Rams’ bench on a 68-yard return in the fourth quarter, there was no wasted effort.

``I just wanted to get everybody into it, get them pumped up and try to get the momentum changed,″ Lyle said. ``I hope I did it, but it would have been better if I’d have scored.″

Like Parker.

``Seven, that’s out of control,″ Lyght said. ``People need to start throwing the ball more to me, so I can get in the end zone. I want to be more like Anthony.″

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