(WHTM) — Harrisburg native Micah Parsons won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year following the 2021-22 season. Parsons became the first player in franchise history to win AP Defensive Player of the Year. He won unanimously receiving all 50 votes to win.
He set a Cowboys franchise rookie record in sacks with 13.0, which leads all rookies in 2021). He tied the NFL lead for the season with 20 tackles for loss, the most for a Cowboys linebacker since fellow Penn State alum Sean Lee in 2017.
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This award comes after the Harrisburg native was already named the Rookie of the Year and Defensive Rookie of the Year by Pro Football Writers of America. Additionally, Parsons has been named to his first Pro Bowl and was the only rookie to be named All-Pro First Team by the Associated Press this year. The former Penn State linebacker also won the Butkus Award for the top player in pro football at LB.
High School career
Before Parsons turned into a star in his first season in the league, he was a kid from Harrisburg. Growing up wrestling, playing football and basketball, many in the area could see his potential. He was bigger, faster and stronger than the kids around him.
He turned his attention to football in high school, starting his career at Central Dauphin HS in Linglestown. Parsons played on the CD freshman team as an eighth-grader and started for the varsity Rams as a freshman. In fact, in his first varsity game, Parsons blocked a punt in the final 26 seconds against Manheim Township to send the game to overtime.
After just four games, Penn State extended an offer to play collegiately for the Nittany Lions. His rise into the 5-star ranks of high school recruits captured a lot of attention.
“It taught me a lot about myself, and it taught me a lot about how people treat you,” Parsons said in an exclusive interview with abc27 before the 2021 NFL Draft.
The attention came with critics, which were amplified after a controversial transfer from Central Dauphin to Harrisburg High School.
“I always look at it like you never know a situation,” Parsons said. “Everyone thought I just left because things were hard, but I’ve never been a quitter in my life. No one could have ever experienced that what we were going through.”
In the fall of Parsons junior season at Central Dauphin, his mom, Sherese, says her landlord raised her rent on their apartment. Micah and Sherese would need to move back to Harrisburg to live with family. It was a rare instance of a mid-season transfer, by the biggest star to come through Harrisburg in a decade.
“Internally, I’m sure he was dealing with a lot,” said Calvin Everett, Harrisburg football head coach. “It was never something I was aware of that held him back or really bothered him. To me, he took it like a champ.”
At Harrisburg, Parsons did it all. He was a star running back scoring 27 touchdowns in his senior season and was a talented defensive end. While some Midstate fans may have criticized Parsons for the transfer, the schools say there was never any bad blood between the teams.
“We wish nothing but the best for Micah,” McNamee said, speaking for the Central Dauphin program. “We wish nothing but the best for him, not just on Draft day, but more importantly beyond. In his football career, but more importantly in his life.”
Penn State career
If Micah Parsons wanted to play as a freshman at Penn State, he would have to play linebacker. It wasn’t a hard decision for the Harrisburg native who grew up playing running back and defensive end. He wanted to play.
And with so much raw talent, the Penn State coaching staff was eager to get him on the field too. So in his first game in the Blue & White against Appalachian State, Parsons officially switched into the linebacker position.
Then-Defensive Coordinator Brent Pry describes the linebacker as the “most competitive guy I’ve ever coached.”
“Coach [James] Franklin and Coach Pry mean the world to me,” Parsons said of the Penn State coaches. “They never gave up on me, even when things hit the turmoil in high school. When things weren’t looking good; when academics weren’t the greatest they believed in me.”
Micah’s father, Terrence, says Micah would spend hours in Pry’s office after practice. The first-year linebacker wanted to learn as much as he could at the position to become a starter as a freshman.
“I wanted to separate myself,” Parsons said. “I used to ask why I wasn’t a starter. What do I have to do to work on? I had the desire to want to make it out. There was nothing that was going to stop me to get away from chasing my dreams.”
Within two years at mike linebacker, Parsons would led the team in tackles as a freshman and be named the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year as a sophomore, the youngest player to win the award.
“For me the standard was set, and it was up to me to reach it,” Parsons said. “The only way to do that was to learn everything I could have possibly learn to get there. And the only person who knew more than me, was him.”
In just two seasons at Penn State, the 21-year-old recorded 191 total tackles with 6.5 sacks. He dazzled scouts at Penn State Pro Day with his 4.39 speed at 6’3″, 246 lbs. Parsons opted out of the 2020 Big Ten season due to concerns about COVID-19.
Selected with 12th overall pick in 2021 NFL Draft
Micah Parsons began his NFL career, selected 12th overall by the Dallas Cowboys. The Harrisburg native becomes the first Penn State linebacker drafted in the first round since LaVar Arrington in 2000. Dallas traded back from No. 10 to the Eagles to get Parsons at No. 12.
Micah grew up a Cowboys fan and openly talked about wanting to start his NFL career where he ended his college career. The linebacker was the defensive MVP of the 2019 Cotton Bowl inside AT&T Stadium in Dallas.
“I am super excited for Micah to be selected by the Dallas Cowboys and carry on the tradition of LBU,” Pry said. “I am so proud of his accomplishments at Penn State and thrilled for his future in the NFL. The Cowboys should be very excited to have such a competitive player and quality person. The fans in Dallas are going to love Micah Parsons, and his coaches and teammates will love working with him.”
Rookie season in the NFL
Parsons’ trophy case will be full after his rookie season with the Dallas Cowboys. The Harrisburg native has been named Rookie of the Year/Defensive Rookie of the Year by the Professional Football Writers of America.
Parsons has already been named to his first Pro Bowl and was the only rookie to be named All-Pro First Team by the Associated Press this year. The accolades are well deserved, however, as the linebacker set the Cowboys franchise rookie record in sacks with 13.0 this season (leading all rookies in 2021).
Parsons became the only Cowboys player to win multiple Rookie of the Month awards when he won back-to-back NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month in November and December.
Before Super Bowl LVI kicks off, NFL Honors recognized the top players and performances in the 2021-22 season.