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Penn State Football: Parsons Comfortable In His Own Skin On And Off The Field

by on May 22, 2019 5:40 PM

Micah Parsons is plenty comfortable with who he is, but he's not entirely unaware of the perceptions you might have of him.

That his recruitment was intentionally a circus, that he's loud and immature or that maybe he will never live up to the hype.

The truth of who we are often resides somewhere between how we see ourselves and how people see us; Parsons' recruitment was not dull, and any recruit enjoying the courtship of every major college football program in the nation is bound to let some of it go to their head.

It's only natural.

But that doesn't mean Parsons was ever really that kid -or more importantly- that he still is that kid, to whatever degree your perceptions of him match reality.

"I learned about myself this past year," Parsons said outside the Lasch Building on Wednesday. "I learned how to carry myself differently. I know that I can't be that same goofy irresponsible kid in high school anymore. I had to grow up and be a student/athlete that could compete at a high level."

"I got to college and I was still a little goofy and coach [Franklin] will say "oh that's just his personality" but I've been a year and a half now and he's definitely holding me to a higher standard. So I've got to grasp that standard and prove that I'm not that kid no more."

In many ways what anyone outside the program thinks of Parsons isn't particularly important, but the sophomore has gone out of his way to become an advocate for his teammates and the program, fully embracing the role as a leader on Penn State's fairly youthful roster.

If you walk into an interview session with Parsons expecting to have any previous beliefs confirmed, not only have you made a mistake from the outset, you leave with a much different feeling. The Harrisburg product has a reverent grasp on Penn State football's history, a firm visualization of how good he can be, and perhaps most important of all, what he has to do to in order to turn his -and his teammates'- own potential into on-field results.

"There are so many great players [on this team] you've just got to find a way to standing out, but for the right things. If you stand out for the wrong things people won't really follow you, so this year I've been emphasizing doing everything right."

Are his current teammates surprised by who Parsons is and who he has become? Roommate and fellow linebacker Jesse Luketa just smiled when asked about his friend's journey to this point.

"He didn't really get the opportunity to really show people who he is," Luketa said. "Granted that's not his fault, not a lot of people are going to have the opportunity to, especially during his recruiting period. I feel like now that he's here and now that we're getting media availabilities, he's going to be able to really show people the type of person he really is and the type of character he has."

"It's just like anything else, you can't tell people not to judge a book by its cover because people will form their own perception of people so it's no different. You see a kid on twitter blowing up with a bunch of offers and he comes to campus for a visit you might have a perception of [a recruit] but that might change once you're able to have a conversation with him."

Parsons isn't out there to prove everyone wrong, but down somewhere in the core of every athletes' driving force there is at least a one small flame committed to proving yourself to everyone who said you couldn't make it. Maybe it's never verbalized, but sometimes it is, sometimes you just like saying it out loud.

And no matter what anyone says, "I told you so" is an incredibly satisfying thing to say.

"I felt like this was a great opportunity to show people that I could do what people didn't think I could do," Parsons said.

"[People say] 'He had a good high school career, can it translate to college?' so far I feel like I took a great step. I can do better and I want to do better and I'm on a clean path and I want to do better."

It's hard to argue with 82 tackles and athletic plays made all over the field, especially when the game visibly slowed down for Parsons has the season went along. His positioning improved, his confidence along with it. For a player already so good from Day 1, he sharpened an extensive playmaking toolbox, with years and years still ahead of him.

"I went through my growing pains early and now I just feel confident in what I do. I asked [Penn State video director Jevin Stone} for a cut-up of all the plays I played in this year and you can see the differences between the first game and the last game and I just thought it was really exciting."

As Parsons enters a second season in State College, the pressure won't go away, but any lingering perceptions about one of Penn State's most charismatic leaders will almost certainly change, and change for the better.

And in the end, their are worse things than having a few extremely confident young men in the world. Especially when they're responsible for the changes that led them to that point.



Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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