Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons reached the upper echelon of the nation’s college football players in his sophomore season as a consensus All-America, and he appeared ready to be a dominant force for the Nittany Lions this season.

However, watching his parents struggle with the coronavirus last spring and being the father of Malcolm, his 2-year-old son, Parsons didn’t want to take any chances playing during a pandemic.

The junior from Harrisburg made it official Thursday, declaring in an Instagram video that he was opting out of the 2020 season and preparing for the 2021 NFL Draft, where he is expected to be a first-round selection.

“As I considered all my options for the 2020 season, I decided I needed to make a choice, not for myself but for my son and those dearest to me,” Parsons said. “While I felt safe with the health and safety standards as we returned to Penn State for workouts, the potential risk to the health and well-being of my son far outweighed by urge to play football this season.

“Therefore, I decided to opt out of the 2020 season and prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft.”

Parsons, 21, said he will take classes this fall and stay on track to graduate in December, keeping a promise he made to head coach James Franklin that he would have his degree when he left school.

In a statement, Franklin said he fully supported Parsons’ decision to opt out and that he was “unbelievably proud of Micah and appreciative of how he has represented our football program, this university, and the state of Pennsylvania.”

“What’s more impressive than his work ethic on the field is his work ethic in the classroom,” he said. “He was on pace to become an Academic All-Big Ten selection this fall.

“My job as the head coach of Penn State is to help everybody in our organization achieve their dreams, and Micah is a great example. Micah and I have had many conversations about his NFL aspirations throughout the recruiting process and his time at Penn State. He is now ready to pursue those opportunities.”

Parsons was named Big Ten linebacker of the year last season and was a finalist for the Butkus Award. He led the Nittany Lions in tackles, posting 10 or more in six of the last seven games. In the final game of his collegiate career, he tied a career high with 14 tackles, including two sacks and two forced fumbles in the team’s Cotton Bowl win over Memphis.

Parsons thanked Franklin, his position coach, defensive coordinator Brent Pry, and the entire coaching staff, who “allowed me to grow into the young man I have always wanted to be.

“Penn State’s given me an opportunity of a lifetime to achieve my dreams and aspirations,” he said. “I have made connections with my teammates that will last a lifetime, and for that I will forever be grateful.”