Micah Parsons primed to be Penn State’s next star linebacker
STATE COLLEGE — Micah Parsons hardly could wait to see his face on the massive video board atop Beaver Stadium. He imagined how cool it would be to hear 107,000 fans roar when he was announced as a starting linebacker for Penn State — as a freshman.
Parsons rolled into Happy Valley last year with much fanfare and no shortage of confidence. A five-star prospect whose roller-coaster recruitment was laid bare on social media, he had much to prove as a player and a person. Parsons won over the skeptics, coming off the bench in 12 of 13 games and still putting together the greatest freshman season by a linebacker at the school that proudly touts itself as Linebacker U.
It has been 19 years since Penn State had a linebacker selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Parsons has all the attributes to end that drought.
“He’s a generational player,” said LaVar Arrington, a North Hills product and the last Penn State linebacker to be a first-rounder.
Parsons still is waiting for that first home start, though. Despite being the first player to lead the team in tackles as a freshman, Parsons had a lot to learn. It was not enough to practice hard. He needed to focus when he was not participating. Parsons could make plays because of his freaky athleticism, but after playing defensive end in high school he was taking introductory courses at linebacker. Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry said Parsons was at the 100-level last year and now is working on 200.
Parsons’ father, Terrence, said his son needed to be humbled last year.
“And he was a little bit, you know, not happy at first because again this kid has always been the star. Always been on the forefront,” Terrence Parsons said. “Now it was like, hey, everybody’s a star here. You got to work now, and that’s what I was worried about because you know he really never had to work. He was playing with God’s gift.”
Pry said not starting Parsons was not an attempt to teach him humility. It was about getting Parsons to understand what is expected of those at the top of the depth chart.
“It’s an approach. It’s the in-betweens. When we’re not doing a rep (in practice), what’s the behavior? It’s not the rep. It’s the other times. It’s trying to get the most out of every opportunity to learn and to grow as a player and recognize that you need that time,” Pry said. “You have to take advantage of that.”
At 6-foot-3, and around 250 pounds, Parsons has speed like a running back. He made 83 tackles last season despite only one start. He was pressed into the lineup at Rutgers when a veteran was being disciplined.
Parsons will play weak-side linebacker, but he has skills to line up almost anywhere. Franklin expects to use Parsons as the secondary returner on kickoffs this year.
“He’s got elite characteristics,” Franklin said.
Parsons has been on Arrington’s radar for years. This spring Parsons and Luketa visited Arrington, who is now the coach at Maranatha High School in Pasadena, Calif. Terrence Parsons said Micah’s relationship with Arrington is “heaven sent,” providing his son insight on what it’s like to live in the spotlight and think beyond football.
“Who does he resemble the most? It could be a lot of different people because of his capabilities. He can play middle ’backer, or he could play outside ’backer. He could play d-end. I mean, (heck), he could play safety if you want it,” Arrington said. “Who do you compare him to? He’s the first Micah Parsons.”