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A Look Back At Micah Parsons’ Dominant Penn State Career

Micah Parsons’ days as a Penn State football player have officially come to an end, folks.

The star linebacker confirmed reports that he will in fact opt out of the Nittany Lions’ 2020 season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft on Thursday. Yahoo! Sports’ Eric Edholm first reported the news late Tuesday night.

While he played just two seasons in Happy Valley, the 21-year old will still go down as one of the best talents to ever come through “Linebacker U.” During his true freshman season in 2018, Parsons played in every game and recorded at least one tackle in each. He now leaves with 192 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, and 19 tackles for loss.

Before he put on the pads, though, the Harrisburg native had a rollercoaster of a recruitment process to James Franklin’s program. The number one overall recruit from Pennsylvania first committed to the Nittany Lions in February 2016, but decommitted the following year after being recruited hard by several other programs, most notably Ohio State (he even named his dog Brutus).

The Pennsylvania kid eventually elected to stay home, though, when he committed to the Nittany Lions for good in December 2017. Despite the brief change of heart, Parsons made his presence felt the moment he arrived in Happy Valley.

While he didn’t start in his first game at Penn State, the powerful linebacker made a few big plays in the Nittany Lions’ nerve-wracking week one victory over Appalachian State. Along with four tackles, Parsons recovered an onside kick attempt by the Mountaineers just before halftime.

Parsons only improved throughout the rest of a campaign in which he was named to ESPN’s freshman All-American team and was selected as an honorable mention for several All-Big Ten squads. He recorded eight total tackles against Michigan and Indiana, respectively, and forced his first career fumble and a sack against Rutgers.

No. 11’s biggest performance of his freshman campaign didn’t come until the Citrus Bowl, though. While the Nittany Lions didn’t earn a victory, Parsons finished his afternoon with a career-high 14 tackles, forced a fumble, and recorded two tackles for loss against Kentucky. The then-freshman put Penn State fans on notice for what would be an even more impressive sophomore campaign.


After a dominant freshman season, Parsons’ quickly developed into Penn State’s most effective defender as a sophomore. The linebacker recorded double-digit tackles in seven of Penn State’s 13 games, his first double-digit game of the season coming against Buffalo in week two.

Along with early season success, Parsons stepped up in a huge way in Penn State’s White Out victory over Michigan. The sophomore finished tied with a career-high 14 tackles, and was essentially everywhere for the Nittany Lions on the defensive side of the ball.

Parsons stayed hot over the course of the next few games, as he made 12 tackles against Michigan State the next week. He was one of the lone bright spots on defense in a brutal loss on the road to Minnesota, as he made 11 total tackles — two for loss — and even recorded a key sack that kept the Nittany Lions alive down the stretch.

While Penn State fell to Ohio State in Columbus just two weeks after the defeat to the Gophers, Parsons once again stepped up for the Nittany Lions. He made 10 tackles, and even forced and recovered a fumble that helped spark a valiant comeback effort.

After a season as truly an unstoppable force on defense, Parsons was named a consensus All-American by the NCAA, and was named a first-team All-American by ESPN and the Associated Press. He was also selected as the Big Ten’s linebacker of the year.

Even after the season of dominance, though, Parsons’ best performance didn’t come in what is now known as his final game playing for Penn State.

In a back-and-forth battle against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl Classic, the linebacker finished with 14 tackles — three for a loss — two sacks, and two forced fumbles. His second forced fumble of the afternoon ended up as the game-clinching play for the Nittany Lions.

After an unreal performance where even Parsons himself described it as his best game, the linebacker was named as the Defensive MVP of the Cotton Bowl.

The 6’3″, 245-pound outside linebacker further catapulted himself into the national discussion as one of the best college football players in the country with that performance. He even garnered some Heisman hype, and is already considered by many to be an obvious first round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.

Even without playing this upcoming season, Parsons remains as one of the top college football prospects entering the draft next spring. His pure athleticism and skill on the defensive side of the ball are enough to give him a chance to dominate at the professional level.

The star linebacker’s Penn State career was cut short, but that won’t take anything away from the success he found in Happy Valley. Along with always having the ability make a big play, Parsons sits up there with Saquon Barkley and LaVar Arrington as one of the most entertaining Nittany Lions to watch.

Wherever he ends up in the NFL, expect Parsons to bring that same energy and fun-loving style of play to his next team.

“I just play the game and just so happen to be good at it,” Parsons said in June. “There’s no more pressure to it. I feel like when you add pressure and all those other factors, it could alter how you play and perform. I just want to go out there and have fun with the game.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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