Rookie Seeks High Water Marks

Times Staff Writer

Bobby Carpenter is more than a rookie linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys. He’s also the world’s best-paid water boy.

As the team’s top draft pick in 2006, Carpenter has the job of fetching water for Coach Bill Parcells during practice breaks. He performs the task at training camp -- the Cowboys will be working out at River Ridge Field in Oxnard through Sunday -- and will do so throughout the season, until next year’s first selection takes over.

For now, his playbook is all about Xs and H2Os.

“It was something I’d always seen on TV,” said Carpenter, a former Ohio State standout who recently signed a five-year, $12-million deal. “It never really hit me until I came to training camp and the trainer was like, ‘OK, you know what to do?’ ... It’s definitely an honor.”

Parcells began the tradition as coach of the New York Giants, and his current roster includes two gridiron garcons from his New England Patriots days: quarterback Drew Bledsoe and receiver Terry Glenn.

“It’s just to show everybody that the first-round pick isn’t going to be put on a pedestal,” said Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, a first-round pick in 2003. “Some teams fly their first-round picks in, have big press conferences when they draft them. Coach Parcells just wants everybody to know that they’re going to be treated like everybody else. They might just get a fatter signing bonus.”


Not only does the system keep his multimillion-dollar men grounded, Parcells said, it gives him a chance to touch base with them each practice, get to know them a little better.

“Over a year, it gives you a chance to talk to that player every day, one on one,” Parcells said. “Even if it’s only a second. Gives you a chance to remind them of something. That’s what I do normally.”

One of Parcells’ first water boys, former Giants linebacker Carl Banks, recalled those brief conversations rarely had anything to do with football, even though they took place during the heat of practice.

“Football is the last thing he talks about,” Banks said. “He’d find out whatever your interests are -- basketball, boxing, baseball -- but most of the time it’s all about getting to know you.”

The process of getting a cup of water into the coach’s hands is remarkably choreographed. Just before a scheduled break, a designated member of the equipment staff will have a cup of water waiting -- Parcells prefers that to any sports drink -- and will find Carpenter to make the transfer.

Purified water for the coaches and players is kept in 10-gallon buckets on wheels called “cows” or “pumpers.” The ice is stored in coolers with wheels called “turtles.” There’s also an extra bag of ice and a few cups set aside for Parcells’ water.

Bryce Walter, a Cowboys training intern, keeps a laminated copy of the practice schedule in his pocket so he’ll know just when to have the coach’s water at the ready. Barring any last-minute changes, the water break comes just after special-teams practice.

Walter locates Carpenter on the field and catches his attention just before the end of the period. When the horn sounds, Carpenter sprints over and makes the exchange -- their handoff worthy of an Olympic relay. .

“Bobby often says something when a little bit of the water spills out the top of it,” said Walter, 24, who graduated from Kansas State last spring with a degree in kinesiology. “Just messing with me, he’ll say, ‘Be careful with that water, man! It’s both of our livelihoods!’ ”

It’s not as serious as that, of course. But Parcells isn’t one to keep his emotions in check when his practice doesn’t flow the way he wants it to, or if he sees something he disapproves of. His lambasting eruptions are legendary.

When the water exchange works, the participants all breathe a sigh of relief.

“I just remember one time he gave me a fist pound,” Newman said. “So I figured, hey, I’m doing all right. I might be an all right water boy.”