Offseason | 2021

Spagnola: The Divine Journey Of Micah Parsons

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FRISCO, Texas – Micah Parsons is a huge believer in divine intervention.

And the reasons he is here today participating in the Cowboys rookie minicamp as the franchise's 12th pick in the 2021 NFL Draft is the latest reason why.

For if you happened to catch ESPN's four-part series Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL, documenting the draft paths of Parsons, Kyle Pitts, Jaycee Horn and Justin Fields through every one of them being selected among the top 12 picks in the first round, you'd understand.

Understand how badly he wanted to be drafted by the Dallas Cowboys, caught on camera saying while getting dressed in a fine blue suit before the afternoon before the draft began, "I look good in blue. You know, hopefully I'm drafted by someone in blue," with even his now 3-year-old son Malcolm decked out in a blue suit, too.

Hint, hint.

Maybe it was an even further sign of things to come when meeting Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin earlier that evening, The Playmaker, saying, "I know who that is."

The Cowboys had their eye on Parsons, but also on the top two corners on their board, Horn and Patrick Surtain II. There seemed a good possibility the Cowboys would select one or the other at No. 10 out of sheer need. But lo' and behold, Carolina takes Horn at eight and Denver selects Surtain at No. 9.

And we hear Parsons saying after Horn goes to Carolina, "We want Dallas . . . if it's Dallas I'm crying."

The Cowboys knew then who they wanted with the two corners gone. Yep, Parsons, the top-rated defensive player on their board. And even after trading back to 12 with Philadelphia, the Eagles taking wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and then seeing Chicago trade up to No. 11 with the Giants, Parsons says, "They coming to get Fields, they need a quarterback."

Sure enough, Athletes First workout mate Fields to Chicago.

"We want Dallas," Parson says to his rep Andre Odom. "If it's Dallas, I'm crying."

He said it twice.

And it didn't take long for his phone to ring in the Cleveland draft-night holding room surrounded by family members, then hearing "Hi, Micah, this is Jerry Jones."

And when Jerry goes on to say, with Parsons covering his face, hiding those initial tears, "You don't think this is too big to be a Cowboy," Parsons says, "No, not at all," as his son Malcolm, sensing something pretty fine just happened to daddy, comes over to give him a hug."

And after talking with Jones and Mike McCarthy, the celebration began. You'd have thought Parsons had just hit a two-run, walk-off homer in the ninth with all the jumping up and down and bear-hugging going on.

Well, you know what, maybe he had, professionally.

And when it comes to how things turn out, maybe father does know best, at one point in the draft process dad Terrence Parsons tells his 21-year-old son, "Wherever God puts you at, you're going to be great."

Now the Parsons family also truly believes a higher order had something to do with Micah being placed on this Earth, Micah dropping this huge nugget during an interview with Brian Linder of his Harrisburg, Pa., hometown Patriots-News, something he says few had ever known.

"It's actually a crazy story," Parsons tells Linder. "I don't think I've ever told anyone this before. My mom already had two kids when she got pregnant with me. She didn't know if she could afford it,"

The circumstances were tough. Mom Sherese was but 24. Two kids. Juggling two jobs. Her husband was in and out of their family at the time. And now another impending mouth to feed?

"I was like, 'I'm already struggling," Sherese is quoted as saying. "l told his dad, 'I think I'm going to the clinic.' I was really thinking about it."

No one knew she was pregnant as her story goes. Only Terrence. And for sure no one knew an abortion was on her mind. But the most important intervention of Micah's life was about to happen.

As the story goes, a lady from the church, Sister Hall, gives Sherese a call. Asks her how she's doing. Mom says she's doing fine. But Sister Hall wasn't so sure.

"She talked my mom out of it," Micah says in the Patriot-News piece. "I think that is why (my mom) was always like, 'God looks over you, son, and you should continue to keep doing good things in your life and give back to God.' That was one of the first lessons she taught me."

And by the way, his name, Micah? Micah's story is the name that just came to her one night.

There is more. Their Jefferson Street home was in a tough part of town.

Sherese claims in the piece, "I think about the young boys he grew up with there. Most of them are dead or in jail now."

Or this from his high school quarterback, Yahmir Wilkerson, telling Linder, "In Harrisburg, there are two lanes. You have the sports lane or you fall into the streets. There is not much more to look up to."

Still more. In junior high, Micah writes a letter to his dad, wanting him back in his life. Terrence returned. Been with the family ever since.

And if there ever was a "natural," Parsons was it. In junior high he also got into wrestling. As a seventh-grader he started pinning ninth graders, legend has it. You name the sport, Parsons played it. Played it well, too. Remember told us the day after the draft how he taught himself to bowl, and bowl well.

The kid who grew to 6-3½, 246 pounds started his high school career at Central Dauphin High, becoming one of the best defensive ends in the state. Penn State actually offered him as a freshman.

Parsons would transfer his junior year to Harrisburg High. As a junior, Harrisburg went undefeated, advancing to the PIAA Class 5A state championship game with Parsons also running the ball, gaining more than 1,000 yards and rushing for 27 of his 29 touchdowns that season.

And how is this for a twist. Harrisburg would play Archbishop Wood for the title, facing one Kyle Pitts, who scored a touchdown in Archbishop Wood's 37-10 victory.

But Parsons did it all in high school. Played D-End, sacking quarterbacks. Ran the ball, over and past defenders. Returned kicks. Kicked off. Punted. And when football was over, he played basketball. And when basketball was over, at 220 pounds, he ran track, a leg on the 4x100 relay team.

How good was Parsons in high school? Well, MaxPreps placed him on its third-team All-Decade team. Not for the state of Pennsylvania. The nation. And along with the likes of Deshaun Watson, Joe Burrow, Ezekiel Elliott, Nick Bosa, Christian McCaffrey and Najee Harris to name a few.

Even then landing at Penn State became somewhat circumstantial after his recruiting trip to Ohio State created a bit of a hissy, between being brought up on the ESPN Game Day stage to meet analyst Kirk Herbstreit, an Ohio State alum, supposedly an NCAA no-no, and then tweeting after the game his thoughts on the Buckeyes' QB situation.

Whatever, Linebacker U was not a bad place to land.

And who knows where he might have landed in this 2021 draft if COVID hadn't happened after his first two stellar seasons with the Nittany Lions. The Big Ten Conference prematurely canceled the 2021 season, so Parsons decided, well, what's the use, might as well start preparing for the draft and contracted with an agent.

Then a few weeks later, the Big Ten reversed courses, saying its teams will play a shortened schedule. But, too late, the conference officials said to Parsons, you already turned pro, and the 2019 Cotton Bowl defensive MVP had to sit out the 2020 season.

Had he duplicated or even improved over his 2019 sophomore season, a consensus first-team All-American, a finalist for the Butkus Award, a semifinalist for the Bednarik Award and named to the 2020 Bronko Nagurski Trophy watch list, he just might have broken up the quarterback-dominated top three picks in 2021. And just maybe might have edged out an offensive lineman or wide receiver or two before No. 12 rolled around.

But because of all that, there was Parsons, wearing his signature No. 11, out here Friday morning at the Cowboys minicamp, actually practicing football – of sorts – for the first time since he was in Dallas for the Dec. 28, 2019 Cotton Bowl that Penn State – with Parsons' help – destroyed Memphis.

"First rep, got the rust off," said Parsons, adding the coaches will be preparing him for middle linebacker duty. "The second rep, like, I'm back now.

"Just wipe the dust off, like it was brand new."

And so this rookie's improbably spectacular journey through his first 21 years begins anew, starting with that great big hug he gave NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on the draft stage, jumping into his arms, the Hey Rookie mic picking up Parsons saying to the commish of being drafted by Dallas, "That's the best place in America."

Evidently the Cowboys think right here at The Star is the best place for Parsons to be, too, and even though there are only three linebackers among the 31 drafted, undrafted and tryout players here for the minicamp, Parsons stepped up first in whatever drill was going on, linebacker or special teams. Same with the post-practice virtual interview.

Front and center.

And as he said after the Cowboys selected him, much to his delight, "This is just the beginning of the journey."

Hey Rookie, a long way from the one beginning on Jefferson Street for sure.

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