When Sean Lee announced his retirement from the NFL on Monday, many thought fellow Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons could be a good fit in the Cowboys system.

Fast forward to Thursday night, Dallas used the 12th overall pick to select Parsons. Making him the second Penn State linebacker to be drafted by the Cowboys; the first was Lee.

In his introductory press conference, Parsons said he’s talked with Lee and hopes to learn from the fellow Penn State alum.

Could Parsons fill the hole left after Lee’s retirement? How do the two compare?

Wanted to be a Cowboys linebacker

Micah Parsons wasn’t shy when saying he wanted to play for Dallas. The Penn State linebacker played his final college game inside AT&T Stadium in the 2019 Cotton Bowl (a game Parsons was named Defensive MVP). The Harrisburg native and his father, Terrence, grew up a Cowboys fan.

Lee played his entire 11-year career with the Cowboys. When announcing his retirement, Lee gushed about playing in the organization.

“”I’ve been blessed to play for the incredible Jones family, with such great coaches and teammates that I love like brothers. I loved every minute playing and tried to pour my heart and soul into winning and helping my teammates at all costs,” Lee said.


In 2020, the Cowboys struggled to stay healthy on their way to a 6-10 record. And Lee struggled his entire 11-year NFL career, sidelined with injuries to his wrist, toe, knee, neck, hamstring, core and suffered concussions.

While in the league, Lee had season-ending surgery to his big toe in 2012, missed the entire 2014 season after tearing his left ACL in OTAs. Most recently, Lee required surgery to repair a sports hernia in August 2020 and missed seven games.

At Penn State, Lee missed the 2008 season with an ACL injury in his right knee.

Parsons has very few documented injuries in his playing career, including a possible sprained ankle as a senior during basketball season, and no documented injuries at Penn State.

Accolades at Penn State

Lee was named a captain in the 2008 season (despite being injured and out all year due to an ACL tear) and was elected again the next year. He was the 2007 Alamo Bowl Defensive MVP and led the Lions to two Bowl wins (2007 Alamo Bowl, 2010 Capital One Bowl). He was a two-time All-Big Ten selection and team captain at Penn State. His performance led to the Cowboys drafting Sean Lee in the 2nd round (55th pick overall).

Parsons played as a true freshman and sophomore at Penn State, before opting out of his junior season due to COVID-19 safety concerns. The high school defensive end and running back was asked to switch to linebacker in Happy Valley. After his first year playing the position, Parsons led the team in tackles despite only starting on game in 2018. By sophomore year, Parsons would be named the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year for the top Big Ten linebacker. He was also a consensus All-American. In the 2019 Cotton Bowl, Parsons was named the Defensive MVP recording 14 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles.

Numbers at Penn State

Micah Parsons26191999218.06.560
Sean Lee3631314716629.511.03
GP: Games Played, TOT: Total Tackles, SOLO: Solo Tackles, AST: Assisted Tackles, LOSS: Tackles for Loss, SK: Sacks, FF: Forced Fumbles, INT: Interceptions

Sean Lee recorded 313 total tackles, 29.5 tackles for loss in 36 games with Penn State. Lee ranks fourth all-time on the Nittany Lions tackles leaderboard (325).

Parsons recorded 191 total tackles, 6.5 sacks and 6 forced fumbles in 26 games with Penn State. Parsons led the entire team in tackles as a freshman.

Sean Lee wasn’t the only Penn State linebacker to play for the Cowboys. Dan Connor played one season in Dallas in 2012, reuniting the Penn State teammates. Connor actually became a starter after Lee’s toe injury in 2012 sidelined him for the season after the sixth game of the year against Carolina.