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Penn State’s Micah Parsons gathers numerous postseason honors but says it won’t change him

The sophomore linebacker became the 43rd player in Nittany Lions history to be named a consensus All-America but said, "I'm just still Micah, man."

Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons put together the greatest freshman season for a linebacker in Penn State’s long history.
Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons put together the greatest freshman season for a linebacker in Penn State’s long history.Read moreJoe Hermitt / AP

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The postseason honors and awards have been piling up for Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons, enough for him to be tagged with the distinction of “consensus All-America,” the 43rd in the history of the Nittany Lions program and first since Saquon Barkley.

The easygoing Parsons, however, wants everyone to know that all the recognition isn’t going to change him.

“Every time Coach [James] Franklin calls me to tell me something new, I’ll be like, ‘Man, that’s so crazy,’ ” the 6-foot-3, 245-pound sophomore said last week at the Lions’ media day in advance of Saturday’s Cotton Bowl date against Memphis. “I didn’t expect it. It’s not like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to get that.’

“Just thinking about so much of what I’ve been through and where I’m at now, it’s crazy to me and my family. So when everybody’s like, ‘Oh, you’re some All-American.’ I’m like, ‘I’m just still Micah, man.' I just do what I do. Nothing’s changed about me.’”

Parsons’ rise has been swift since he committed to Penn State following a whirlwind recruiting dance as a national top 10 recruit out of Harrisburg High School that had him commit to the Lions and later withdraw his commitment before coming back.

He was moved to linebacker – a position he never played before – in the spring of 2018 and has worked diligently from that day to learn its nuances instead of what he called “just playing off talent and stuff.” He led the team in tackles as a freshman despite starting just one game and has repeated as tackles champ as a regular starter this season.

“I don’t think you would really notice now that he hadn’t played a lot of linebacker growing up,” linebacker and captain Jan Johnson said. “He has great control of his body, and he understands. He can put his body in positions that really shouldn’t work and come out and make a play. He makes plays that are amazing.

“He’s finally really learned how to do stuff certain ways at linebacker and what moves he can make to slip blocks and stuff like that. Obviously you could see that where he made All-America. I think he’s improved a lot from last season.”

Parsons said he has learned much from Johnson, whom he called “someone who is always doing the right thing.” With Johnson leaving the program after the Cotton Bowl, Parsons will have to step up as a primary leader with the unit.

“I spent the last couple of years kind of behind the scenes trying to be that kind of player that wants to play and let things roll,” Parsons said. “But I think I need to be that guy to try to make something happen, be the changing factor in the game. Or if I’m not even making many plays, being that voice for some guys. A lot of guys, I would say, look up to me, so I think having that influence can be a very good thing when you’re trying to win a national title.”

Parsons said that winning a national championship is part of a “great vision” he had when he came to Penn State, to be an All-America, then one of the best players in program history, and eventually titles.

“Every time I walk in the locker room I probably stare at the All-American honors,” he said, “even looking up at the weight room honors, who’s got the fastest 40, the strongest bench [press]. I’m looking at that and I’m like, ‘Yo, I’ve got to be on these walls somewhere. I’ve got to be the best of the best because I saw Saquon do it.’

“I think my vision is almost there, but it’s not complete. Like when I committed here I said that I wanted to win Big Ten titles and national titles. So I feel like it’s a good start to what my vision has been, but it’s not complete yet.”

At least he’s an All-America, and he’s waiting to have his name put up with the others on the wall in the Lasch Football Building.

“They didn’t do it yet,” he said, “but I’ll take a selfie with it” when it is.