Micah Parsons rise to the NFL has been highly touted and scrutinized since he burst onto the scene in high school. As the linebacker looks towards the 2021 NFL Draft, he addressed any character concerns, the greatest setback of his life and his dual personalities in an exclusive interview with abc27’s Allie Berube.
The Harrisburg native looks to become the first Penn State linebacker to be taken in the NFL Draft first round since Lavar Arrington in 2000.
Preparing for NFL Draft & opting out of junior season
Allie Berube: Micah, thank you so much for sitting down [with abc27]. I know it’s been a whirlwind few months, but what is it like right now just a couple weeks away from the NFL Draft?
MP: Right now, I’m just taking every day as it is really just living life and enjoying the process. I’m just going to enjoy every little bit of the process before I turn my life over.
Berube: I want to go back to this time last year right and coronavirus is happening. We don’t know if the Big Ten is going to play [a football season] and you have to make the difficult decision to opt out and focus on your training. How hard of a decision was that, but do you think it really benefitted your development?
MP: I feel like it was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. [It was] one of the more challenging decisions I’ve ever had to make as a man and with my family. Obviously I’m a competitor and I love to play. With my development, I’m going to compete regardless of wherever I go. I always feel like I could still develop and there are things I could work on, but as of right now I just have to focus on just keep getting better. I think during all that training I really did get better and that’s all that matters.
Berube: I know we were watching and wondering—we saw all of your Instagram videos of all the workouts you were doing—but to see you at [Penn State] Pro Day [ended doubt]. There were questions about how good is he going to be; you surpassed so many expectations; you put up such great numbers. Was that a goal that you set when you chose to opt out. Like I’m going show out at Pro Day and you did it.
MP: That was definitely a goal of mine. [With] me not playing this season, I had to go off at Pro Day. I had to put the whole nation on watch like I’m still Micah Parsons at the end of the day, regardless of if I can’t play. This first rookie year is going to be big for me just to prove I still have my edge for me. I’m excited.
Berube: What’s that itch like? It’s been a year and a half since you’ve got to suit up officially and play a game of football. Are you desperate to get back on the field? How much do you want it?
MP: I’m super desperate. I was just telling my friends [that] I can’t wait to smell that fresh grass, the sweaty pads and everything. I just miss the game, [and] just the little things about it.
Berube: I know how close you were to your teammates, and you went back and forth with them all season. It still felt like you were apart of the team obviously, but was it hard to be away from them? Especially when [Penn State] struggled early.
MP: It was extremely hard because at the end of the day, those are my brothers. Those are the people I went to when I had to make this decision, and I feel like me not being out there hurt me. I feel like I could have helped the team. I feel like I could have built the camaraderie back up. It hurt me but I think towards the end they kind of found themselves. They finished how they were supposed to.
What he learned at Penn State & first generation college graduate
Berube: When you look at your time at Penn State, what did you learn about yourself and about football?
MP: I learned a lot about myself. I’ve actually been through a lot at Penn State in my two and a half years. The hardest thing that I had to swallow is that you can’t be like everyone, you have to separate yourself from the pack. You have to be different than a lot of your friends; you can’t choose to go out every night. You have to be selective.
You have to take school a lot more serious than you think. [When I graduated from Penn State] was one of my more proud moments. I was super excited about that. So I think that’s something that I learned about myself. If you want to go on and you want to separate, you can’t be like everyone else. You can’t do everything else everyone else does. So that was one of my hardest pills to swallow.
Berube: Not only did you graduate but you did it in such a unique way. You were not on campus, trying to finish up your classes and your GPA was super high. Was that a goal that you knew going into Penn State I have to graduate no matter what?
MP: That was a goal as soon as I stepped on campus. I was like ‘I want to be out in three years and I want to graduate in three years.’ They put me on that plan immediately during the summer when I was up there. I took 20 credits in the summer; I took another 12-15 in the fall just so I could graduate. I made sure I was on my P’s and Q’s. I took my more challenging classes just so I could finish with my degree.
It was not so much just for me but obviously for my son and my family I wanted to be different for them. My parents never graduated college and also just to prove to people I’m more than just an athlete. A lot of people wanted to set their expectations on what I was going to do, so I want to surpass people’s expectations and prove everyone wrong.
Berube: I talked to your parents at halftime of that App State game, your first game at Penn State. Your mom said [she wanted you] to graduate. She was more focused on the academics than anything else. You were already playing as a college football player. and to do all the right things and to be that disciplined—how much do you think you grew as a man coming from high school and having that discipline in college?
MP: It helped me grow a lot because now I look at the world so differently. I keep telling my friends [that] I can’t sleep past 9 anymore. My structure everyday is so grounded and based off of how I operate now. I have to wake up; I got to go do something early; I can’t just stay in bed. I just can’t operate like that. As a man, my work ethic is really high now, and what I choose to do and my decision making is extremely high
Maturity level growth from high school
Berube: We talked at Pro Day that some people think there’s maturity [issue]. I talked to your dad about it, and he said you’re so much different than you were in high school. All he said was that you’re fun loving and you’re a kid. You’re 21 years old, but he said now you’re a man. He sees that through your relationship with your son, with your work ethic, and what you accomplished at Penn State. Do you feel that way as well?
MP: I do feel like that. At the end of the day, Muhamad Ali said if you’re the same person when you were 20 as you are when you’re 50, you didn’t do [anything] to change. I look at it the same way.
I’m not the same kid I was in high school, whether I was getting detention or things like that. All of us did things we’re not supposed to do. I was young. I was living life and the spotlight was on me; more than I wanted it or may not have wanted to be. It was something I had to suck up and take, [plus] realize that the spotlight was always on me from an early age. As my development as a person—and like I said decision making—it completely changed.
What I want to do with my life and what I wanted to do with my life at 16 is completely different. My goals and admirations have completely changed. I realize what I have to sacrifice to get there and what I have to sacrifice to continue to do great things. I’m a completely different person now.
Berube: How hard is that? I didn’t live in the spotlight the way you did. To be 15 and to be playing in a high school football game and people are there to watch you—there’s social media—there’s the pressures of where is he going to end up for college—is that difficult as a kid to handle all that pressure?
MP: It is because I’m seeing my friends doing all these crazy things and I want to do that. But when I did do that, I got in trouble. It was like I can’t do everything else. I wanted to be a kid and I wanted to live life but at an early age, [but] I had to learn how to sacrifice my time, going out and things like that. At the end, I knew I wanted to go further than just hanging out with these people all the time. It’s hard and it’s a hard pill to swallow. You kind of lose friends along the way and you have to be willing to accept that. You have to be willing to accept that if you want to be able to go a different place, friends don’t stay the same.
Times he wanted to give up
Berube: Does that ever get to the point where you weren’t sure if it was worth it [to play football]? Did you ever have that moment where you thought that this pressure is so much I don’t know if I could do this in the future?
MP: Yeah, a few times. Like I said it was just so hard; people don’t understand until you’re in those same shoes. There’s so many outsiders who say ‘man, I wish I was in his shoes.’ A lot of people don’t have what it takes to be an every day football player; we struggle with it. So to say that you wish you were in somebody’s shoes—people often say we take things for granted, but no we don’t really take things for granted. Sometimes you just wish you could be like everybody else. so it’s kind of weird.
Berube: Unfortunately for you—or fortunately—you love football. You’re so dang good at it. So you have this gift, and you’re trying to decide in high school what to do with this. When did you decide NFL was where you want to go and is your ultimate goal?
MP: I’ve been saying that since I was 6 years old. I thought I was going to go straight from playing peewee, pony and midgets and maybe a little high school ball straight to the NFL. I wasn’t thinking about college. My friends we were just talking about this the other day, I was saying I was going to the NFL since like 7th grade. I was saying that before anything.
This lady actually reached out to me through Instagram saying ‘I remember you were coming to my nurses office saying you wanted to go home because you were sick and that you were going to go to the NFL.’ She said if I bought her a car one day she would send me home. ‘I think its so funny that you’re doing all these things because you used to say it when you were younger and no one believed in it and we’re so proud of you,’ [she said]. This has always been my dream.
Harrisburg is always home
Berube: You’re a kid of the community. I say that because you went to two schools and you’ve captured the attention of everyone in Harrisburg. We’ve talked about the pressure of that but how much does it mean to you that there are people here who have followed every step of the journey and are dying to see where you go in a couple of weeks?
MP: It means everything to me because it just shows that this football life and the things that I’m doing are just bigger than me. I look at it like I’m inspiring the youth; I’m inspiring people to want to go further and I’m inspiring people that there is more than just Harrisburg and there’s more to life.
No matter your circumstances if you want something in life you GO GET IT! You can do anything with GOD and FAITH!— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) April 15, 2021
There’s school; there’s things that you can go past college. There’s opportunities out here, we just have to take them. To be able to do that and to inspire the people of Harrisburg and inspire older influences who now want to change and younger influences who want to change, it means everything to me. I’m all about 717. I always rep it to the fullest.
Berube: I know every other tweet from you is shouting out someone from this area in particular or someone going to Penn State. You’re already such a great example to kids but I think what strikes me is that people can look at you and not just say ‘oh, he was a football player, he was a gifted athlete and he made it.’ You have the degree, you did it with great grades. I feel like that’s almost just as important to your legacy as what you’re going to do on the field.
MP: Exactly. That’s why I wanted my degree just to add to that legacy. I was on the wall but I also thought my academics should be on the wall too. I just want to show that to kids. Hopefully one day I can continue to set up organizations that help people in Harrisburg and offer scholarships.
Getting held back in middle school changed his life
Berube: I know we’re talking about a lot of high level things about your philosophy on things but when it comes down to it to me you’re a competitor. Whether it’s academics, whether its trash talking [Penn State wrestler] Bo Nickels or whatever, where does that will to compete come from?
MP: I experienced failure at a young age. My parents held me back and I got made fun of. A lot of people clowned me. From that moment, I finally was able to stop making excuses—stop making excuses for why I’m not doing something and why I’m not good at something. From that moment, I said I would never fail again. Losing to me is unacceptable.
If me and my friends go to the bowling alley, I’m going to throw a 180 to 200 and I’m going to say ‘I win.’ I just want to win at life now. I experienced failure and its something I never want to experience again. So that’s one of my biggest fears is failure and I think losing is failing. So it hurts me more to lose than anything in life.
Berube: How difficult is that? You’re kind of coming into your body at that time, you kind of know your future, obviously being held back for the academics. That’s a hard pill to swallow and you’re so young. How much do you think that taught you about yourself at 12 or 13 years old?
MP: It kind of scarred me really because my whole world got flipped upside down. I had to re-find myself. I had all the sports and things but it still just wasn’t the same. It completely flipped a switch. I realized life for what it is at such an early age. [I] lost friends, and got bullied. People look at me and think ‘yo, he got bullied before?’ Yeah, I got bullied.
You can do everything right, but the thing you do wrong. So I always tell people that you can fail at life and be okay, but its how you act and react to it afterwards that completely changed my whole mindset and what I believe in after that.
Berube: Is it a blessing now? I know you went through a lot of adversity because of it, but when you look back at what it taught you so young, is it a good thing you got held back?
MP: I think its an amazing blessing. When my family told me they were going to do it because I was struggling, I was like ‘no, no, no… just pass me on.” And they was like ‘no, you need this.’ And I was like ‘oh my gosh.’ I started crying to my mom, I was like ‘please don’t do it.’ She was like ‘no, we’re going to hold you back… me and your dad talked about it.’ This is right along the time I was wrestling too. They were like we’re going to do it and I was like ‘no.’
So I think everything happens for a reason and that’s just God’s many ways of how he looked over my life and I think I have a bigger purpose than just football in this world so it’s kind of how I look at it. My path went crazy. I went to CD and then all that stuff happened at Central Dauphin. God led me back to Harrisburg, where I was able to graduate early from Harrisburg High School. Then [God] led me to graduate early from Penn State. So I think my life is bigger than what I think it is.
Transferring high schools in the middle of junior season
Berube: You have that in middle school, you have the transfer in high school, as you mentioned, from Central Dauphin to Harrisburg in high school. Was that another difficult decision? You’re in the middle of your high school career, trying to get to the next level and you’re switching schools. What does that teach you?
MP: It just taught me a lot about myself and it taught me a lot about how people treat you. 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 that I thought I had kind of turned their back on me and thought I left them. But the truth and reality you know I didn’t.
My mom was already moving back to Harrisburg; there was literally nothing I could possibly do. I couldn’t fake an address, we were moving in with my grandma. I always look at it like you never know a situation. Nobody was going to take me and my mom in, we were moving into my grandmother’s house.
My situation was bad where I was at and no one could understand that and everyone thought I just left because things was hard but I’ve never been a quitter in my life. No one could have ever experienced that what we were going through. That’s how I always view it so I always say it was a blessing really.
Berube: I feel like all these things were so personally difficult for you and you’re a kid going through them. You don’t really have a platform to talk about them or maybe people don’t even care to know what you’re going through. They’re just mad about what’s happening for their team. Now you’re on the cusp of achieving such a great dream and you have a platform. I’m always struck by the fact that you are always focused on how do I get the next kid from Harrisburg to Penn State or to the NFL. Do you think that comes from wanting to have that community that maybe you didn’t always have growing up?
MP: I still don’t think we do enough for the kids in Harrisburg. I see a lot of locals that want to help but we don’t have none of our big people, who have made it out, coming back to benefit this city. I feel like we need those people to come back. I want to come back. I love Harrisburg.
It’s not about what Harrisburg did for me, it may not have done a lot but it made me into who I am today and wanted to become. I feel like, I can help kids find their way. They’re going to find who they want to be and want to become in life. I’ve been through hell and back being in Harrisburg and it made me into a stronger person today. For me, it means more.
Potential at linebacker in the NFL
Berube: What do you think an NFL team is getting with you? We’ve talked so much about who you’ve become as a man, what do you bring to the next level?
MP: I think I bring a lot. You’re going to get a caring person that’s going to care about his teammates. You’re going to get a person that’s smart and understand where he’s at in that defense. Then you’re going to get an athletic freak who is going to fly around and make plays. [Someone who will] really inspire the city and inspire the culture and bring a winning culture. I think every program I’ve been in has been a winner. I think I’m going to bring a winning environment and we’re going to win some championships.
Ima be ready !!! I got everything to prove!! 😤😤 pic.twitter.com/KmyVlumRyq— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) January 27, 2021
Berube: I love that confidence. The thing that’s scary to me about you, you’ve only played linebacker for two seasons. How much do you think you still have raw potential at the next level to learn the position that you’ve only played for a couple years and yet were so successful at Penn State?
MP: I think I have so much to learn and so much to grow. That’s why I wish I would have played [my junior season]. I think me and Coach [Brent] Pry had a great plan. I just can’t wait to go out there and show people how much different I can be.
Berube: Your dad said he talked to Pry a couple of times and you were always in [Pry’s] office. If it was the end of practice, you were talking for an hour about strategy or the playbook. Why do that? You’re already spending so much time on football, but why be with the coaches that much?
MP: I wanted to separate myself. 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 and being on that wall. I spoke everything into existence.
I had a vision of myself being on the wall. I had a vision of myself getting Big 10 honors having a shoe, hearing Saquon [Barley] and seeing LaVar [Arrington] and all of those people that are there. I already had a vision. For me the standard was set, and it was up to me to reach it. 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 [Pry].
Mentors helping Micah to next level
Berube: It’s so important to have those mentors. You had some here in Harrisburg; you had some on the college level. Who is mentoring you now? Helping you get through this process and to the next level.
MP: I would say I have a lot. LaVar [and I] talk every day. Obviously [I have] my parents, and then Coach Pry and Coach [James] Franklin. We still talk every week, and they’re going to be with me on [NFL] Draft night. All those guys, all those coaches and friends. Just having their support has been unbelievable.
Berube: How much does Penn State mean to you in the time that you were there? And Coach [James] Franklin and Coach [Brent] Pry in particular, how much did they get you through those two and a half years and to where you are now?
MP: I would say you add those two and a half years plus my four years of high school [and] we’ve been like 7 years deep in reality. A lot of people don’t know that. Coach Franklin and Coach Pry mean the world to me. 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.
When people say ‘We Are,’ it’s a real thing. We are family; we are all together; we all believe in each other. That’s significant to me.
I tell that to people. As long as you treat people right and you treat people with respect, they’ll do the same thing for you. They’ll never turn their backs on you. For me, Penn State means the world to me and they believed in me all the way through.
I remember after my first freshman camp when Coach said I was going to redshirt. He called me and my mom and said] ‘Micah will be in the NFL in three years and he’ll most likely be a first round draft pick. I just want you to know and him to know his potential and I want him to know that I’ve got his back. I just want him to listen and I promise you he’ll be a rich man one day.’ He’s never steered me wrong yet. Even though I hated him sometimes, and we butted heads. He never steered me wrong, so I’ve got nothing but respect for him.
Picture NFL Draft night
Berube: I think about you setting all these goals, and you accomplished all of them at Penn State. You accomplished a lot in high school. You’re about to accomplish the goal of at least getting drafted into the NFL, and you’re going to do it with your family around you in Cleveland. You’re going to do it with your coaches around you. I know you’ve thought about it a lot. But what do you think the emotions are going to be like?
MP: I’m gonna smile and I’m going to look at my mom and dad. I might tear up a little bit because my mom has been through so much. My dad went through so much. I’m not going to say it was up to me, but [I can] finally change my mom’s life. We didn’t have nothing and we moved five times since I was a kid. We had cold nights and all we had was each other. [After] the struggles we went through, to finally look at my mom and say we don’t have to struggle anymore—I’m doing a lot for her now. It will just be an unbelievable feeling. I believe she’s going to cry, and I’m going to cry. They’re going to be the happiest people in the world and they’ll be the happiest because I did it for them.
Micah is a momma’s boy
Berube: How much do you think they sacrificed for you?
MP: I’ve seen my mom work three jobs and she probably only got 5 hours of sleep. My dad was a three job guy. And then my mom would sell dinners; she would cook—she’s a real good cook. She would sell dinners on the weekends to make money for me and my dad to get a cheap hotel and a rental car. We would drive to like Tennessee or Georgia, just to be in different wrestling tournaments and give me exposure and things like that. She would do all that for me, no sleep, no breaks. Now it’s kind of my time for me to put her to rest and say ‘get as much rest as you want, live your life now. mom.’ [She’s] sacrificed enough the last 21 years.
Berube: You’re the youngest in your family, yet you talk so [much maturity], so wise beyond your years. I can’t imagine the pride they’re going to have in just a couple weeks its going to be unbelievable.
MP: Yeah, it’s going to be truly amazing. I can’t wait.
Best food mom makes
Berube: I have to know, what is the best thing mom makes? Best five things mom makes, you let me know.
MP: We’re going to start off with the mac and cheese; her mac and cheese is world class. And then I love her lasagna. I love her ribs; she makes a good rib and mac combo. Yeah, it’s amazing. Number 4 it would have to be her pasta, her ziti and her alfredo wooo…
Berube: You’re a big pasta guy.
MP: I love pasta. Then when she puts in that fish fry, woo that fish is crazy. Do a little hot sauce with some bread. Make you a nice fried fish sandwich, man that thing is unbelievable.
Berube: I’m just thinking you have your dinner order ready to go for tonight.
MP: That’s why I love her. I’m like ‘mom, I’m coming home for the weekend’ when I used to leave school, ‘I need the whole lay out.’ She’s like ‘I got you, son!’ Me and my boy Jesse [Luketa], my roommate, my brother would come back and we used to tear a plate up. He’s like ‘yo, I love you, Momma Parsons.’ She takes care of you.
Berube: That’s awesome. The one time I got to meet her, just her smile when she sees you out on the field, is—oh gosh, it makes me emotional.
MP: She’s truly a true spirit. She’s one of one. If I ever had a daughter or a wife that worked as hard or cared as much as she did—it would have to be someone like my mom. She’s a true one of one spirit to this world, like a light that just shines upon us all. She’s just different.
Berube: She set a high bar for whoever comes into your life.
MP: A high bar, a high bar.
Berube: That’s how it should be. Mom’s should be the best. Does your son grasp what dad’s trying to do? Does he understand that you’re going to go play on TV?
MP: He doesn’t yet; he’s so young. He’s got so much to grow. Hopefully by the time he’s five or six, he grasps what I’m trying to do. Hopefully that’s when he’s like ‘dad, I want to go play football.’ Let’s go sign [him] up, let’s do it. I would be happy, but I don’t want to say I’ll force him to play anything. I want him to find his own life like I did and find his own path that he loves.
Pro bowling career, foundation & restaurant on tap
Berube: It wasn’t just football for you, your dad says you were a better wrestler than a football player. And apparently you want to be a pro bowler. I mean what’s the goal? OK you have an NFL career hopefully 25 years like Tom Brady or something crazy but then what? What happens after that?
MP: I’m going to start my pro bowling career; I want to start an organization, maybe a restaurant called Sace’s and start things like that. I’ve got so many ideas that just be floating around that I’ve actually got to map out. I want to do a little bit of everything.
People always laugh at me when I say that I’m going to be a bowler one day, but then we go hit the lanes. They’re like ‘oh snap, you’ve got potential’ and I’m like ‘I told you I’ve got a little something in the tank.’ And that kind of always changes people. It’s like man you really just compete and have fun. Man, I just love having fun and competing.
Berube: I just love that you were like ‘I kinda want a restaurant’ but I know the name. Like you’ve thought about this restaurant a lot. You’ve got a name for it and everything. What is Sace?
MP: It’s my second personality.
Micah’s alter ego & Gemini season
Berube: Alright, hold on, we have to start the whole interview over. Can I interview Sace? What is Sace?
MP: I mean, Sace’s like that cool dude, alter ego. Micah’s kind of like quiet; you see how I just switched like that? Yeah, you called Versace and he came out. He’s down like that, that cool dude that just likes to hang out, go out and have fun. He gets a little wild some times, so we keep him tucked in. And we’ve just got to snap back into Micah just like that.
Berube: Oh my god, it really is two different people. Yeah it’s real calm now. Is Sace like vacation Micah?
MP: Yeah, heavy vacation, heavy going out
Berube: I like it, it’s good to have two. Keep everyone guessing.
MP: its a gemini thing, that two faced thing. That’s real. It’s real life.
Berube: Gemini, I’ll write that down. Make sure we remember that.
Goals: NFL Rookie of the Year
Berube: I haven’t even asked you, what do you want in your NFL career? What do you want in a team? What do you want in the guys around you?
MP: I really just want to win. I don’t care who is around me. I just want a bunch of guys who are going to go out and give 100 percent every weekend, give their all for me and for the other guys around us. I’m going to give my all and win championships. I want to win the ultimate prize and that’s the Super Bowl and be an All-Pro while I’m doing it.
Berube: So those are the goals that we’re going to watch you check off. I’m not even going to say that you’re going to try to achieve, you’ve checked off every other goal, so you’re going to check those ones off too.
MP: [NFL] Rookie of the Year is first. That’s what we’ve got to achieve first.
Berube: Awesome. I really appreciate the time and thank you for giving us a little insight into the man you’ve become. It’s really awesome to see.
MP: I always say people have a story to tell and I feel like people should always tell their story. and always show who they really are. because you never know who is going to listen to this and who its going to inspire. Our story, Kobe Bryant’s story, Michael Jordan’s story all inspired me so I hope my story inspires someone else one day.
Berube: You want to be that level of great?
Berube: Beyond, I love that.
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