It is very fun watching Micah Parsons play football. Unfortunately it’s been quite awhile since we’ve gotten that opportunity — Parsons sat out the 2020 college football season when it looked like the Big Ten would not play until spring at the earliest — but in two years as a linebacker at Penn State, Parsons established himself as an All-American and someone whose name would get called sometime in the first round whenever he entered the NFL Draft.
That moment is going to come on Thursday barring something totally unforeseen. Parsons is expected to be one of, if not the, first defensive players to hear their names read by Roger Goodell at the 2021 NFL Draft, the kind of mistake-erasing linebacker in the middle of the field who mixes freakish athleticism — he’s 6’3, 246 pounds and runs a 4.39 second 40-yard dash — with remarkable football instincts. In two years in Happy Valley, Parsons accrued 191 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, and 6.5 sacks while forcing six fumbles and earning consensus All-American honors as a sophomore.
Prior to Thursday’s festivities, Uproxx Sports caught up with Parsons through USAA to talk about the Draft, his game, a growing narrative around one of his college teammates, Penn State wrestling, and more.
Has it hit you yet that you’re going to be making it to the NFL in a few days?
It hasn’t fully hit me yet, but I believe it will very soon. Very, very soon. I think once I’m finally drafted and I got that hat on and I walk onto the stage, that’s when it’s gonna hit me real quick.
You spent this last year getting ready for this moment. How did you become a better football player in the last year?
I had an unbelievable guy working me out, coach Chad. He helped me with my movements, so we just get better — I think my all-around game, and I think I showed that a little bit at my Pro Day. It’s really just watching a lot more film, what some of the best people in the league are doing right now, and watching a lot more football this year. So getting prepared with my team this year, and I’ll come and see them soon. That’s kind of how I spent my year.
I remember back when you were recruited, you were a big-time defensive end recruit, and I want to talk about your transition to playing linebacker. Just first, when was the first game in your life when you were a full-time linebacker?
I played linebacker pretty much my whole life until I got to high school.
And what is it about playing linebacker that you think best takes advantage of your skillset as a football player?
I think my IQ, my speed, hit power, range. I think that all those things helped me become a great linebacker.
And, a person comes up to you and says, “Micah, I want to watch the game, that best sums you up as a football player.” What game are you telling them to watch and why?
I’m going to tell them to watch every game, but the most dominant one would be the Memphis game.
Why that one?
I think that was the game, if you look at all my games, I think that was the game where coach was like, I begged coach, “Let me loose, let me move, I’m feeling it, coach.” I think that was the game where I showed every part of my game, what I could do, coverage-wise, blitzing-wise, tackling-wise, range. Didn’t matter, I did everything.
So, one thing I always liked doing is asking guys about their college teammates in the lead up to the Draft. And with you, there’s been this narrative around Jayson Oweh that he didn’t get any sacks last season. How do you respond when people say, “He didn’t have any sacks last year. I see the numbers, I see the athleticism, but I’m a little hung up on that sack number?”
You have to know football, and you have to know what you’re getting out of a player. That stuff always tells the tale. Look at Danielle Hunter. Danielle Hunter had one and a half sacks [as a junior at LSU], and he’s one of the best pass rushers in the NFL right now. So sometimes, it doesn’t always tell everything you need to know about a player.
And I think Jayson is one of them examples, there’s so many factors that could have went into it. It’s all about scheme. I think when you look at it, teams often got the ball out quicker. We had Shaka Toney and Jayson Oweh off the edge, which were two of the most dominant pass rushers. So I think teams did a lot more dropbacks, a lot more quick passes, dumps, quick slash, out runs, and things like that. So there’s a lot of things that should go into why he didn’t have any sacks. I think they based it off of kind of a weird season. It’s a hard judge, but I think Jayson’s going be future All-Pro player.
Yeah, I mean, you watch the games and quarterbacks are getting the ball out in a half second, and Jayson is still getting a hand on them. It’s just, like you said, they’re getting the ball out real quick.
Yeah, exactly. So I think the season kind of put this narrative out that — “he didn’t do this.” But, you can let people pass on him if you want to, and later down the line, they’re gonna regret that.
So there was a really great piece about you on PennLive last week, where you said I’m here for something bigger than football. What is that something?
I don’t know yet. But I know the type of person I am, and I love giving back. I love trying to change my community. I love … really just trying to inspire people. I think I got an amazing story, and I went through a lot personally as a kid, and even as adult. I think I can tell my story and it’s going to impact somebody. I think me being in this Draft is an unbelievable experience, and show them that you can do things bigger than yourself — just got to put your mind to it, you just got to work, and people are going to listen. Because I’m kind of doing it now, and I think I got a chance to reach some kids, and inspire them to do bigger things themselves. I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s really not about the money or the accomplishments, it’s about how you going to impact people down the road, the ones, the future. I think the future matters and, who’s going to be the future generation. The people that is going to bring all this together in the world.
What do you have going on with USAA?
Discipline, sacrifice & leadership are all military qualities that I have inherited from my military family. Thank you to @USAA for allowing me to honor them and their service before I start my @NFL career with this week’s #NFLDraft. #SaluteToService #USAApartner pic.twitter.com/JwuIb4dRoW
— Micah Parsons (@MicahhParsons11) April 26, 2021
I partnered with USAA because I love what they’re doing. I love what their message is and what they’re trying to do. Unbelievable opportunity for myself to partner with them, I have an unbelievable amount of military family in my household. I got two uncles that’s active and that’s going to be with me at the Draft. And I just love what they do, and I think it’s going to be a great thing for the both of us.
Nice. So my two final questions here, I’m also a Penn State guy, and I know there were some times in college when you said you want to take a couple of handoffs, you want to return a few kicks. Are you going to want to do that stuff in the NFL?
Of course. If it presents itself, I’d be the first one to take it.
And then the final question, this is the toughest one I’m going to ask you, what is the best Penn State wrestling moment from when you started following the program?
The best Penn State wrestling program moment … I think when Anthony Cassar upset, was it Kollin Moore?
Yeah. That was the dual in Rec Hall.
Yes, sir. That was legendary.
Yeah. That and Bo Nickal pinning Myles Martin to wrap up the team title are the two that always stick with me.
Yeah, at the NCAAs, those are my top two. But, one that I saw in person, it was definitely Cassar at 197 when he upset Moore.
Oh wait. So you were there for that?
Yes, sir. I didn’t miss a match.