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NFL Draft

Micah Parsons On Details of Playing Linebacker, 2021 Outlook

  • The Draft Network
  • October 30, 2020
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After producing names such as Jack Ham, LaVar Arrington, Paul Posluszny, and NaVorro Bowman, Penn State has rightfully become known as “Linebacker U.” The program's consistency with producing second level players is notable, but there’s another on the horizon.

Micah Parsons was one of the most sought after recruits to ever sign with the Nittany Lions. As the top-ranked Pennsylvania player, he elected to stay in his home state. As the home state hero, he became one of the more decorated players in school history despite only playing two seasons. Becoming the first true freshman to ever lead the team in tackles to now becoming a likely top-10 NFL draft pick, I wanted to catch up with the superstar linebacker now that he’s officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

Question: Growing up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania you were given the nickname “The Waterboy.” Tell me how that came about and why you were given that name.

Parsons: At an early age, I used to just fly around, hit people and score touchdowns. It was all instinctual. I got it and it just hung onto me my whole life. That’s one of my favorite movies now.

Q: In high school, you transfer to Harrisburg for your final season, which is your hometown. You put the program on your back. You guys went undefeated during your senior year for the first time in 47 years, but they played you some at running back. Do you still think you could play a little bit of running back?

P: I keep telling myself, if I went to Alabama, I would be at running back right now. No doubt in my mind. I would be a starting running back right now for the Crimson Tide. At Penn State, I used to beg them, plead them, and do everything in the world, but they would not give me a carry.

Q: One of the best assets about your game is your blitz value. You played some defensive end. Do you think that value helps you overall on the field and in the future?

P: I’m originally a defensive end. I’m sitting at 250 pounds right now. I can put on more weight to be a defensive end or I can drop the weight to be a linebacker, but I think that’s just part of my value. I am a true defensive end. I just have enough athletic ability and enough intellectual ability to play linebacker at a high level. So, I think, whether it’s a 3-4 or a 4-3, if you want me at outside D-end, I can really do it all. I’m willing to do it all, I just need an opportunity.

Q: Let’s just say that I’m an NFL team. I already know about Micah Parsons the person, but what would you say is your biggest strength as a player and then your biggest weakness or something that you want to add to your game in the future?

P: I’d say one of my biggest strengths is my instincts and I.Q. level. I’m really good at diagnosing plays, getting to the ball, slipping through blocks, and just finding a way to get to the ball at all times. Something that a lot of people don’t know about me is that I was a national and state champion wrestler all throughout middle school, so that helps me be more efficient on my tackles and get people to the ground. I think a weakness is being a better student of the game in the pass game. In coverage, when I do get my depth, I do a great job. Getting in better shape is always one. I tend to play high throughout the game.

Q: Your first year at Penn State was really your first year ever playing middle linebacker. What was that experience like now that you’re seeing the game from a different perspective from your normal defensive end spot. 

P: Early on, I thought it was a lot. I barely knew the position, so then they moved me to WILL. The two are pretty much the same thing, but the difference between those two spots and defensive end, is that you think more as a pass-rusher on third down. At linebacker on third down, I’m looking at down and distance, knowing what the offense does a lot in these situations, what type of concepts can I be hit with in this formation, will it be a draw or pass? There’s just so many different things that you have to think of. There’s a lot less thinking at defensive end and much more to worry about as a linebacker. 

Q: Let’s rewind a little bit. The last time that we saw you play was in the Cotton Bowl against Memphis where you had a standout performance–14 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks on your way to winning defensive MVP of the game. When you’re in the zone as a player like that, describe that feeling.

P: Honestly, I was in my zone before I was even in my zone. For me, it’s all about the mindset and creating a picture for yourself. As soon as I stepped foot on campus, I had visions and goals of what I wanted to be while I was at Penn State. People think it’s hard, but it’s really so simple. I feel like I work hard enough to get where I got and where I’m at right now. When I got there, I walked down that hallway every day. I’m walking and I see Saquon Barkley and LaVar Arrington—all the people that I love and look up to in the hallway everyday on my walk to the locker room. I just stare at their pictures and tell myself that I’m going to make this wall. I told coach before that game to just let me loose. That was the first game of where he let me do everything.

Q: You led me right into my next question and that’s LaVar Arrington. You received the No. 11 jersey number as soon as you arrived. There had to be some type of significance behind that.

P: Me and LaVar probably get something to eat at least once a week or we’ll hang out more. A guy that I constantly look at as a father figure to me. He saw in me before I could even see it in myself. He was like “I want you to get No. 11. You’re the next one.” That was the first thing that he ever said to me. Of course, I said all right. It was a lot of pressure on me. Coming into my first career game against App State, I’ve never had this much expectation, but I told myself just be yourself, play your game, and you’ll be perfectly fine.

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