Micah Parsons is entering his sophomore year at Penn State, where he has a legitimate chance at becoming one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten this season.
But his journey to get to this point was anything but conventional. In fact, Parsons himself called it “bizarre” – his recruitment as a top-five player in the nation in the class of 2018.
“I kind of didn’t know where I wanted to go,” Parsons, of Harrisburg, said Tuesday in his first conference call with reporters as a Nittany Lion. “Obviously, I was highly scouted and all these coaches were looking at me. I tried to show love to everyone. All the facilities were great. All the people were great. It was kind of crazy, because nobody knew where I was going.
“I kind of kept everyone on their heels, giving a little bit too much, giving a little bit less. It was kind of bizarre for the coaches, bizarre for my family, because my dad didn’t know where I was going, my mom didn’t know where I was going.”
How bizarre was it? Parsons committed to Nittany Lions coach James Franklin, who began recruiting him in ninth grade, in February of his sophomore year. However, about 14 months later, he withdrew his pledge, saying he felt as if “I committed too soon, and I need to focus on this upcoming football season.”
Penn State was still in the mix, but so were Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama, and Nebraska. It wasn’t until the morning of the early national signing day – Dec. 20, 2017 – that Parsons made his final choice of the Nittany Lions over Georgia and Oklahoma.
Franklin later quipped that when he eventually writes about his life as a coach, it will contain “five chapters on my career and 15 chapters on the ups and downs and twists and turns and the journey of Micah Parsons.”
Parsons enrolled the next month and went to work “to show people that I was more than just a football player and a bizarre kid on social media."
“Obviously, I wanted to show that I was real good with my academics and that I wanted to come in as a focused football player, to become a better person and athlete,” he said. “That’s what Coach Franklin emphasized. I bought in to the program once I got here. They kind of helped me along the way to become the person I am today.”
A defensive end in high school, Parsons was moved to linebacker last spring. Franklin marveled at Parsons’ ability to make plays without knowing the fundamentals of the position.
Hie playing time increased as his freshman season progressed. Even though he started just one game, he became the first freshman (true or redshirt) to lead the Lions in tackles, posting 83 of them, and he earned honorable mention All-Big Ten.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Parsons credited defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Brent Pry with staying by his side during the recruiting process and contributing to his improvement.
“He tells me, ‘If you want to be great, here’s what you have to do,’ ” he said. “Having a person like that in your corner means a lot, because if you don’t have that motivation and that positivity, then you don’t have that determination. He gives me a purpose to prove to him that I can be great, and prove to myself that I can be great.”
Parsons, who played weakside linebacker last season, has worked at both outside spots this spring. He said he has worked hard on his footwork and his technique, and he’s primed to have a big year.