Micah Parsons probably didn’t know it at the time, but when he played at AT&T Stadium and was named the most valuable player in Penn State’s Cotton Bowl victory over Memphis following the 2019 season, it would be the final game of his college football career.
Now, Parsons, a 6-foot-3, 246-pound linebacker who opted out of the 2020 season, will pick up where he left off in the home of the Dallas Cowboys, the team that took him in the first round of Thursday night’s NFL draft following a trade with the Eagles that dropped them from 10th to 12th.
“I want to finish what I started. I fell in love with that stadium,” Parsons said after his selection, according to the Cowboys’ website.
Parsons was one of two players from Penn State who went in the first round. Defensive end Jayson Oweh, who worked out with Parsons following his 2020 season, was taken with the 31st pick by the Baltimore Ravens, who listed him as an outside linebacker.
It marked the first time since 2003 that the Nittany Lions had two defensive players chosen in the first round of the NFL draft.
Another Penn State player, 6-5, 251-pound tight end Pat Freiermuth, was selected Friday in the second round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, No. 55 overall. Freiermuth, who played only four games last season before a shoulder injury ended his season, played for three seasons, finishing his career with 92 catches for 1,185 yards. His 16 touchdown catches were the most in program history by a tight end.
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Parsons, who grew up in a Harrisburg home with parents who were both Cowboys fans, said Dallas was his dream destination. That was evident when he leaped into the arms of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after his name was announced.
“I put out into the world that I wanted to be a Cowboy, and I’m just glad that my dream came true,” he said.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was glad to have him.
“His makeup, the way he approaches the game, is an attention getter,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News. “Physically, he is a freak.
“From my perspective, I wanted a player there that really impacted strategy, a way for us to load it up and give offenses unique problems. He gives us that kind of upside. We just got better.”
Coincidentally, Parsons joins the Cowboys only three days after former Penn State star Sean Lee retired after 11 seasons with the team.
“I know what Sean represents,” Parsons said. “Hopefully one day we can link up in Dallas, and I can use him as a great mentor and get better.”
Parsons clocked 4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash at Penn State’s pro day last month, but the 6-5, 257-pound Oweh won their personal duel with a time of 4.36.
Oweh, who did not play high school football at Blair Academy in Blairstown, N.J., until he was a junior, was a first-team All-Big Ten selection after the 2020 season even though he did not record a sack. Despite that, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he liked what he saw on tape.
“You look at his athletic ability and, just for that very fact, we feel like he’s a great fit in our defense,” Harbaugh told Baltimore media. “He’s an aggressive player. He runs to the ball very fast. He’s in the backfield constantly. He’s knocking people back in the backfield. He’s beating tackles into the backfield. He runs things down from behind.”
In his interview, Oweh said he felt he could become a dominant player with more experience.
“I still have so much in the tank, so much untapped potential that I don’t even know, and the people that drafted me don’t even know yet,” he said.
Oweh, who is of Nigerian descent, told reporters he wanted to be called by his first name, Odafe. He said he had used Jayson, his middle name, because people had trouble pronouncing Odafe (O-dah-FAY).
“I don’t care any more,” he said, according to a Tweet by ESPN Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley. “You’re going to have to learn how to pronounce it.”