Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons was selected No. 12 overall on Thursday night by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the NFL Draft.
He is the highest selected Nittany Lion since Saquon Barkley was picked up No. 2 overall by the New York Giants in the 2018 draft, the first Penn State defensive player to go in the first round since Miami picked DE Jared Odrick at No. 28 in 2010, and the program’s first linebacker taken in the first round since Lavar Arrington was taken at No. 2 by Washington in 2000.
Parsons sat out last season due to COVID-19 concerns – although he nearly returned to play – joining a host of talent prospects that opted to avoid the abbreviated and often start-and-stop season. Penn State was one of the few teams in the country to play an entire nine-game slate without a COVID-19 interruption.
“The Big Ten, you know, they had an unknown on the season,” Parsons said earlier this year. “With COVID spiking I thought there was a chance that they would cancel it again. Honestly, I did want to come back, but my family made the decision that it was already too late and I was already training. I’ve just been training since September all the way out to now and I’m just glad that this whole training this it over.”
In his final appearance as a Nittany Lion, Parsons made 14 tackles, two sacks, three TFLs and two forced fumbles against Memphis in the Cotton Bowl – the same stadium he will now call home. The game marked his eighth during the 2019-20 season in which he had at least 10 tackles.
Had Parsons returned to Penn State for a junior season he likely would have been regarded as one of the top defensive players in the nation.
Penn State coach James Franklin and defensive coordinator Brent Pry both joined Parsons in Cleveland for the draft. The Harrisburg native was one of selected handful of players who were invited to the in-person draft event.
Parsons will join the Cowboys just days following the announcement of the retirement of longtime Cowboy linebacker and former Nittany Lion Sean Lee.
Penn State now awaits the futures of several Nittany Lions with defensive end Jayson Oweh the popular choice to follow not far behind Parsons in the draft order. The duo impressed at Penn State’s Pro Day, the only workout events NFL teams had to view the prospects following the cancelation of the normal NFL Combine due to COVID-19.