Micah Parsons believed he would play in the NFL before he ever played football. The Harrisburg native achieved that dream when he was drafted 12th overall in 2021 by the Dallas Cowboys. He became the first Penn State linebacker to be drafted in the first round since LaVar Arrington in 2000.
As the superstar Cougar shines in his NFL rookie season, here are 11 things you need to know about No. 11.
1. Changing positions is in his blood
When Micah was in peewee football, there were many kids who played his position: running back. So Micah’s father, Terrence, told him any time he gets the football, he needs to score a touchdown. The young star took that to heart.
Terrence says Harrisburg Head Coach Cal Everett was “open” to using Micah however the team needed; that’s when the HS defensive end started playing some RB as well. In just his senior season, Micah rushed for 1,239 yards and 27 touchdowns. The Cougars went undefeated, and Micah picked up a few more big offers from schools like Alabama.
He would go on to Penn State where Head Coach James Franklin and Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry would move Micah’s position again, this time to linebacker.
“If he’s not playing, he’s not going to be happy,” Terrence said. “Whatever the team needs, that’s the type of person Micah is. If they say play safety, he’ll go play safety to the best of his ability. As long as he’s on the field, he’s happy and he’s going to give you 100 percent.”
2. Will play anywhere on the field
Micah was anxious to become a starter at Penn State as a freshman and would often ask Coach Pry why he wasn’t in that position. According to Micah’s father, the first-year linebacker would spend hours in the defensive coordinator’s office trying to get better.
“I wanted to separate myself,” Micah said. “I had the desire to want to make it out and there was nothing that was going to stop me to get away from chasing my dreams. The only way to do that was to learn everything I could have possibly learn to get [Penn State honors and make it to the NFL], and the only person who knew more than me, was him.
Micah only started one game his freshman season, but would lead the team in tackles.
3. Reason he transferred high schools
In the middle of his junior year, Micah transferred from Central Dauphin to Harrisburg HS. It was a rare instance of a mid-season transfer prompting many to question Parsons’ motivation for doing so. In an exclusive interview with abc27 ahead of the NFL Draft, the Harrisburg native revealed he and his mom moved five times growing up, and in high school Parsons and his mom were moving back to Harrisburg to live with his grandmother.
“It just taught me a lot about myself and it taught me a lot about how people treat you,” Parsons said. “I think once I decided to transfer one community welcomed me and another one was kind of like good riddance. It hurt me to do that because a lot of friends I thought I had kind of turned their back on me and thought I left them.”
4. Rocky relationship with the Penn State coaches? No.
When Micah is drafted to play in the NFL, Franklin and Pry will be with the Parsons family in Cleveland.
“Coach Franklin and Coach Pry mean the world to me,” Micah said. “They never gave up on me, even when things hit the turmoil in high school.”
Franklin offered Micah a chance to come play in Happy Valley after his fourth game at Central Dauphin as a freshman. As a sophomore, Micah verbally committed to Penn State and then decommitted as a junior.
Eventually, as everyone knows, Micah would recommit to the Nittany Lions and would lead the team in tackles as a freshman and win Big Ten Linebacker of the Year as a junior. The rest is history as they say.
5. A better wrestler than football player
When Micah’s parents started running the numbers to get their oldest son to college, the Parsons realized their kids would need to get scholarships to afford college. Terrence says that’s when he had his kids play all kinds of different sports. For Micah, who was above average in size and strength, that meant wrestling all over the country. In fact, Terrence says he might have been a better wrestler than a football play (and that’s a scary thought).
“He loves football,” Terrence starts. “To watch the Penn State guys win national championships, [I realized] they were on Team Pennsylvania together growing up. I’m thinking to myself that could have been Micah if he stuck with wrestling, but football is his sport.”
6. Micah loves his mom
Micah lights up when he talks about his mother, Sherese. He calls her a one of one spirit and says if he ever has a daughter or gets married, his mom set a high bar.
The 21-year-old often acknowledges that both of his parents worked two or three jobs his entire life to support their three kids.
“When we didn’t have nothing, and we moved five times since I was a kid,” Micah starts talking of his mother’s sacrifices, “we had cold nights. All we had was each other. [Considering] the struggles we went through, to finally look at my mom and say ‘we don’t have to struggle anymore’ [means everything].”
7. Humble beast has to eat
Parsons says he’s a big pasta guy. His top five favorite foods his mom makes include ziti and lasagna, but the one that reigns supreme was his mom’s mac n cheese. He says it’s world class. In fact, it was partially his mom’s cooking that gave him a chance to chase his dreams.
“She would sell dinners on the weekends to make money for me and my dad to get a cheap hotel and a rental car,” Parsons said of his mom’s sacrifice. “We would drive to like Tennessee or Georgia, just to be in different wrestling tournaments and give me exposure. She would do all that for me, no sleep and no breaks.”
8. Wants to set an example for his son
Just two days after the first round of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, Micah’s son, Malcolm, will turn three years old. In fact, the young toddler was part of the reason Micah chose to opt out of the 2020 Big Ten Football season citing possible health concerns for his family.
“He’s got so much to grow,” Micah said of his son with a big smile on his face. “Hopefully by the time he’s five or six, he grasps what I’m trying to do [playing in the NFL].”
As Micah prepared for the NFL Draft, Terrence said he can see Micah’s growth in maturity through his relationship with his son.
“He has in place what he wants his son to do what he wants to do for him,” Terrence said. “It’s a blessing as a parent; you always want to see your kid be successful. That’s a proud moment for me.”
9. Was held back in middle school, calls it a blessing
Micah was held back by his parents in middle school as the young child was struggling with his academics. Micah says he begged his parents to pass him to the next grade, ended up losing a lot of friends and was even bullied for not being smart enough.
“It kind of scarred me really because my whole world got flipped upside down,” Micah said of his middle school experience. “I had to re-find myself. It completely flipped a switch and I realized life for what it is.”
From then on, Micah says that failure prompted him to never want to fail again. After transferring high schools as a junior, Micah graduated Harrisburg High School early to early enroll at Penn State and participate in spring practices.
He parlayed that into absolute dedication to his criminal justice degree at Penn State. While across the country training for the NFL Draft in California during his junior season, Micah completed his classes online and earned his degree; he graduated in just 2.5 years.
10. Next up for Micah? Pro Bowling
Micah Parsons wants to be a professional bowler on the PBA Tour. Yes, you read that correctly.
“I want to do a little bit of everything,” Micah said. “People always laugh at me when I say that I’m going to be a bowler one day, and then we go hit the lanes. I’ve got a little something in the tank.”
After his football career runs its course, the next plan is to become a two-sport professional athlete. According to Terrence, Micah averages 190-200 and has gotten some pointers from the pros at ABC North Lanes on Locust Lane, Harrisburg.
11. He’s a gemini, just ask Sace…
Micah Parsons will turn 22-years-old just about one month after he is drafted to play in the NFL. The Harrisburg native was born on May 26, 1999; that makes Micah a gemini.
If you follow astrology, a gemini sign is usually an outgoing, enthusiastic and social being. Gemini’s approach life with intelligence. And according to Micah, can have two personalities. Just ask his close, personal friend Sace.
Want to know who Sace is? You’ll have to listen to Episode 1 of The Sports Extra Podcast by clicking here. Podcast Co-Host Allie Berube sits down with Micah Parsons one-on-one to talk in depth about his journey to the NFL. The pair talk through everything from his high school transfer, to what he learned at Penn State and even his two personalities (one named Sace).