Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons almost went to Ohio State.
Even named his dog Brutus.
“But,” in the words of Parsons shortly after Penn State defeated Indiana, “there’s no hate.”
In fact, there’s big-time respect.
Parsons says he is good friends with Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins and defensive end Chase Young, who will be back on the field Saturday when the 9-1 Nittany Lions visit The Horseshoe for a noon showdown with the 10-0 Buckeyes.
“Those are my boys,” Parsons said of the two Buckeyes. “I have no hate for anybody in the game. I appreciate all those who add to the game.”
Parsons, a sophomore linebacker and Penn State’s leading tackler in 2019, connected with the pair at The Opening Finals elite football camp this past summer in Frisco, Texas. As former participants, they were all invited back to be counselors.
“I just talked with J.K. a couple of weeks ago on Instagram: ‘Keep ballin’, man,’ ” Parsons said. “Obviously, he went up as the third-best rusher (in Ohio State history). Things like that. We should support our athletes across the country. There’s no hate.”
Parsons said that at times he thinks what might have been had he ended up in Columbus. It’s a thought, he admitted, that even crossed his mind the day he finally signed with Penn State after taking a circuitous route from Harrisburg to Happy Valley.
“Yeah, I do think about that sometimes,” Parsons said. “At The Opening with J.K. for an internship, Chase goes, ‘You almost came here.’ And I go, ‘Yeah, that would be dope if we was together.’
“But everything happens for a reason. I thought about ‘what’s ifs’ the day I committed, you know. It’s gonna happen. I thought about everything possible (and) I felt this was the best place for me.”
I asked Parsons if he has been following the recent saga of Young, the transcendent defensive end and possible No. 1 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft who was suspended for two games but will play against Penn State in the nationally televised game on Fox.
“Yeah. I mean, who didn’t?” Parsons chuckled. “It was all over. You get alerts on your phone. If you didn’t get it, you’re obviously locked up in the house somewhere.”
Parsons said that he also keeps in touch with Buckeyes quarterback Justin Field: “Yeah, of course.”
If some odd twists had come to fruition, Parsons and Fields could have ended up as teammates at Penn State, Georgia or even Ohio State. A five-star recruit from Georgia, Fields was the No. 1 duel-threat quarterback in his high school class, according to ESPN, 247 and Rivals. Fields verbally committed to James Franklin and Penn State on Dec. 1, 2016, then revoked his commitment on June 17, 2017. Fields eventually enrolled in Georgia and played sparingly as a freshman behind Jake Fromm in 2018.
In the offseason, Fields transferred to Ohio State and was declared eligible to play immediately in 2019.
As the Buckeyes’ starting quarterback in 2019, Fields is 10-0, with 31 touchdown passes and only one interception. Overall, he is 159 of 230 (69.1%) for 2,164 yards. As a rusher, he has 84 carries for 377 yards and 10 TDs.
PARSONS > PSU > OSU > PSU
A quick bit of the Parsons-Ohio State backstory: Parsons, a Harrisburg high school standout and the No. 1 Pennsylvania recruit in his class, verbally committed to Penn State on Feb. 27, 2016. Fourteen months later, shortly after visiting the PSU campus for the Blue-White Game he decommitted on April 23, 2017.
Parsons seriously considered Ohio State to play under then-head coach Urban Meyer. That went sour when Parsons tweeted, while on a visit to Columbus, that the Buckeyes should make a quarterback change from senior starter J.T. Barrett to Dwayne Haskins.
Then, in the lead-up to the National Letter of Intent signing day in December 2017, Parsons visited both Oklahoma and Georgia. Ultimately, though, on Dec. 17, 2017, Parsons officially signed with Penn State. Franklin said the recruiting of Parsons “will probably be five chapters on my career and then 15 chapters on the ups and downs and twists and turns, and the journey of Micah Parsons.”
SATURDAY IN COLUMBUS
Now, Parsons and Penn State will be facing the Buckeyes with the Big East division title, a spot in the Big Ten championship game and a possible berth in the College Football Playoff on the line.
Parsons said he’s ready.
“I think this is the opportunity for me and all the 10 guys and all the other defensive guys to really prove that we belong and prove that we could be the best team in the Big Ten,” Parsons said.
Parsons knows the game is for all the marbles. At least this week.
“I told people already: This is for the Big Ten championship right here, next Saturday,” he exclaimed. “This is going make or break either one of our seasons. This is it right now. You know, we have to capitalize immediately.”
MORE FROM MICAH
After Penn State’s narrow 34-27 victory over Indiana in Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Parsons didn’t lack for opinions and perspective about Penn State’s biggest of the game of the year. Here’s more from Micah on:
His previous trips to the Horseshoe:
“I was there when I took my official (visit) and they played Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma. (Oklahoma won 31-16 as Mayfield planted the OU flag at midfield.) I was at Michigan in 2017 (when Ohio State won 31-20). You know, obviously they’re another great Big Ten team. I think their crowd is always pretty good. Big stadium, carries as much — almost as much — as Beaver. I think it will be loud and action-packed.”
Following Franklin’s 1-0 mantra this week:
“It’s hard. You’re always looking forward to doing big things. But that’s how you get distracted. I think this game definitely weighs a lot. But if we focus on just beating Ohio State, everything else will play its part. Just one game at a time. Finish strong. There are two weeks left in the regular season and we just have to think about this game. And after that, you have to think about the next game. All those accolades and all those projections will come after.
“…We need to do the same thing we’ve been doing the last eight, nine weeks. Sticking to what we know, the 1-0 mentality and just going out there and executing and be prepared. Get prepared.”
On playing error-free football vs. the Buckeyes:
“A team like Ohio State, you can’t make too many mistakes. One mistake could kill you. I think we really have to focus on the preparation and the execution. Especially how dangerous they are, how many weapons they have. You really got to execute. You can’t over-think it. That would take you away from the play.
“…things are going to happen throughout the game, it’s just a matter of how you react to it. I think we react pretty well to it…we just need to get to our A’s, B’s and C’s, things that have been working.”
On being the underdog (Ohio State is an early 13-point favorite, according to Odds Shark):
“Since the beginning of the season we’ve been underdogs. I don’t think nobody really counted on us to be this good. We just have to keep going with that mentality. I hope that we’re underdogs. I’m living for the underdog role. Underdogs always come out on top.”