FRISCO, Texas – You might have known "Mr. Cowboy," right, the nickname given Cowboys Pro Football Hall of Famer Bob Lilly, and the 83-year-old reminded me the other day during an interview how the title somewhat used to embarrass him.
Lilly figures there's been so many "Mr. Cowboys" over the years deserving that title, but that maybe he was tagged with "Mr. Cowboy" since he was the Dallas Cowboys franchise first draft choice, first player inducted into the Ring of Honor, first player inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he and Jason Witten the franchise leaders with 11 Pro Bowl selections, he and Ralph Neeley the first two Cowboys named to an NFL All Decade team (1960s) and he and Randy White tied for the franchise's most All-Pro selections (seven).
Well, this guy in two years might just trump "Mr. Cowboy."
Meet one Micah Parsons, now the self-proclaimed "Mr. Football."
Yep, this past weekend as the featured guest Friday night at _The Ticket Sports Radio's_ annual _Ticketstock_ event, the hosts asked him during a live interview if he considered himself a "linebacker or defensive end, or a hybrid, what do you call yourself?"
Parsons, without missing a beat, said, "I call myself Mr. Football."
Talk about a mic-drop.
So take a listen. When asked if Penn State might have misused him, or if he needed another year to explode, knowing he left after two seasons following the COVID explosion in his third, Parsons went into this explanation:
"So, I needed another year to explode. So, my freshman year I was behind a senior. I slowly was working my way into the roster, slowly learned the playbook, so by the end of the year I won the job. That was kind a me exploding toward the Cotton Bowl (2019 Outstanding Defensive Player), like look at the final four games and Cotton Bowl, I was like uprising, right. So we were coming into the next season I earned the job, and I was keep climbing, and as the year progressed I was like, keep getting better with the more experience. You got to realize when I got to college that was my first time playing linebacker, especially under the system. I was always the running back, edge, so I was learning the position, I was keep going.
"And then COVID hit (2020), and it was like, 'Yeah Mike you're gonna be a Top 10 player in the draft.' And I said, 'Well, see ya Penn State.' And that year the thing that was going to bring me back was they said, 'Well we'll blitz you more, we'll rush you more, we'll show everyone what you got.' So I was like, 'Dang I do want to do that,' but then LaVar Arrington, my mentor, said, 'So you'll win all those trophies, but they only collect dust, so don't even worry about it.' I said, 'Damn, you're right,' so then I went into the pros.
"And then I got to Dan (Quinn in 2021), he was like, 'You can blitz, right?' He's like, 'You can do this?' I was like yeah, and he's like, 'Well I'm going to line you up right here (at DE). I was like, 'OK.' And then we did OTAs, I was dominating, and then we went to camp and put me against some guys that walked on and I was crushing them. Then put me against some backups, I was crushing them. And then he put me against Tyron Smith, and I just felt like I hit a brick wall. And I said, 'OK, we got some work to do.' But we had a base point, and that's when I realized not everyone is Tyron Smith, because after that I said let me go over here, let me go over here and I started working and went in and then I got to regular season I just realized not everyone is Zack Martin and La'el Collins and Tyron Smith. And I was like, 'OK, this isn't as hard as I thought.'"
And now 26½ sacks later, with Micah taking his shots at playing linebacker and defensive end, and blitzing, too, we have the birth of "Mr. Football."
· Stop the Scrums: Look, these "scrums" are for rugby, not NFL football. This must stop, these plays third-and-ones, fourth-and-ones, teams lining up like three players behind the quarterback under center, and at the snaps just pushing the QB forward to pick up the necessary yards for a first downs. You know this used to be illegal, but in 2005 the NFL decided it had become too difficult to decipher if there was pushing or pulling. Well now these teams are taking advantage, and it's just bush league, even offensive linemen now getting into the act if falling behind a running back and just shoving the guy for like five yards or until he lands in the end zone. Even Mike Pereira, the former NFL director of officials who became the rules analyst for Fox, somewhat agrees, saying, "You could say that these scrums have become a safety issue. When you have all those bodies and all those legs moving forward . . . it does seem to be a player-safety type thing." And quite barbaric.
- PSA: So here is my Public Service Announcement – Do yourself a favor and go watch Godfather vs. Gunslinger on NFL.com, part of its nod to Black History Month. It's the story of the 1984 Alcorn State vs. Mississippi Valley State undefeated clash between the two Southwestern Athletic Conference HBCU schools that gained so much attention the game was moved from little ol' Ita Bena, Miss., to the state capital of Jackson, Miss., an unprecedented move to play the game at the 65,000-seat Veterans Memorial Stadium and televised live throughout the state of Mississippi. Great clash between Valley's wide receiver Jerry Rice and Alcorn's corner Isaac Holt, who turned out to be one of my all-time favorite Cowboys players. The Godfather is Alcorn's head coach the now late Marino Casem. The Gunslinger is Valley's Archie Cooley. Epic HBCU game. Well worth your 15 minutes peeking back nearly 40 years.
- Also This: As part of the Black History Month celebration, it's pointed out that Cowboys Hall of Fame receiver Bob Hayes is the only player to win an Olympic Gold Medal and a Super Bowl title. And to think it took the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee 35 years to put "Bullet Bob" in the Hall of Fame, seven years after he passed away.
- Shorties: And here is another reason Dak Prescott wins the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, taking time out of his day Wednesday here at The Star to participate in a panel discussion before an SRO audience for those in the organization as part of the Black History Month celebration . . . Oh, and the speech he gave at the NFL Honors ceremony for winning the Man of Year award was basically off the cuff, since telling me afterward he didn't learn of winning until just before the program began, making all he said that night even more impressive . . . Jason Witten, one of the other three Cowboys to win the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, will announce his 6th Annual Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award winner out here at Ford Center Thursday night, the three finalists Deslin Alexandre of Pittsburgh, Sean Clifford of Penn State and Alex Forsyth, Oregon . . . Oh, and speaking of picking up third-and-ones, Dak went eight-for-eight in that category, tying for first in the NFL at 100 percent, while Philly's Jalen Hurts went 16 of 19, but three-of-three in the Super Bowl, and picking up another first down on fourth-and-one opj push and shoves.
And for today's final word, let's go back nearly two weeks ago to the Hall of Fame Class of 2023 being announced before Super Bowl LVII to get a great feel from Scott Howley for what it's like finally walking out onto that stage representing Cowboys linebacker Chuck Howley when his dad's name was called after this 46-year wait.
"Oh, it was amazing," Scott says. "It was so surreal, and I was nervous and, basically Ronde Barber was standing next to me (before he walked out) and I said, 'Man, if I pass out, just step over me.' And he says, 'No man, I'll pick you up like I'd pick up any of my teammates and carry you on out there with me.'
"I guess at that moment I realized I was part of a bigger family. We went to the Merlin Olsen Luncheon, we got to see a lot of the old, previous inductees, and they all had a central theme: 'You're part of a team now you can never be cut from.' And one of the guys said, 'You're now in football heaven.' So it's like a big fraternity."