There are people who believe— and justifiably so— that the best football player on the planet is a Penn State grad in Micah Parsons.
Mike Gross, a PSU beat reporter for Lancaster Online, is one of those people.
During coach James Franklin’s weekly presser Tuesday, Gross asked him about Parsons.
After a successful career at PSU in which he became a consensus All-American, Parsons has been a star in the NFL. This winter, he became the first Cowboy since the late “Bullet” Bob Hayes in 1965-66 to make the AP’s first-team All-Pro in his first two seasons in the league. Parsons has continued to dominate in Year 3.
Through two games, Parsons has six tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
Franklin only got to coach Parsons for two seasons (2018-19). Parsons would have been back for 2020, but due to COVID-19 threatening the Big Ten season, Parsons opted out and focused on the Draft, where he went with the 12th overall pick.
Although he stil wishes Penn State had Parsons for 2020, he loves the player and person Parsons has developed into.
“I’m proud of him,” Franklin said. I’m really proud of him for a lot of different reasons. Football is one of them, but it’s a small one.”
Parsons was back in Happy Valley for Penn State’s season opener against West Virginia Sept. 2. Before that, Parsons spoke to the team and, per Franklin, did “just a phenominal job.”
“He talked about the game, but talked specifically about Penn State and this community,” Franklin said.
Franklin went on to say that, the other day, Parsons sent him and Parsons’ defensive coordinator at Penn State, current Virginia Tech head coach Brent Pry, “a beautiful heartfelt, thoughtful message” out of the blue.
Like everybody else, Franklin’s impressed with Micah Parsons the football player, but is more thrilled with Micah Parsons the person.
“He gets very little credit for graduating from Penn State in three years,” Franklin said. “I see on social media how frugal he is. I love that. I used to show the guys videos of [Chad] Ochocinco. One of the most brilliant things ever is he wore fake jewelry the entire time he was in the NFL. Why? Because when you’re in the NFL, you wear fake jewelry, everybody assumes it’s real and he’s not wasting money on things that don’t really matter. I worry about that a little bit in today’s day and age.”
Franklin made it clear that he’s a big support of Name, Image and Likeness, but is concerned about its possible drawbacks.
“I also worry that it sets up unrealistic expectations of how hard it is to earn a dollar,” Franklin said. “A lot of times when you’re the head football coach and you talk about things like that, people don’t want to hear it from me and people in my position. But I worry about that.”
“I hear stories about our guys wasting money on haircuts or turning down NIL opportunities that they don’t think pay enough. I worry about it. I worry about unrealistic expectations of how hard it is to earn a dollar in our country and in our world now. I want our guys to appreciate that. I think Micah’s a great example because I think part of our responsibility as college football coaches, that I take very seriously, is that when our guys leave here that they’re equipped and ready to take care of themselves and their families for the next 40 years. I think NIL can be a positive in teaching them lessons about how to manage your money. I think Micah is a great example of that.”
Franklin then mentioned a tweet from this past November in which Parsons ranted about the price of his haircut.
“He’s got more money than most people will ever dream of, but he’s complaining about how much a haircut costs on social media,” Franklin said. “I’m super proud of him. I’m super proud of the young man that we recruited, really from ninth grade, that took us on a roller coaster ride during his recruiting process.”
Parsons, an in-state product from Harrisburg, committed to Penn State in Feburary 2016. He then de-committed in April 2017 and re-committed and signed on Signing Day that December.
“We had some tough love when he was here,” Franklin said, “and he looks back at all this stuff with such appreciation now. He’s always been super thoughtful. I loved how he embraced the whole Penn State experience.”
Franklin then mentioned Parsons’ support of Penn State’s wrestling program. He returned to Penn State in January for No. 1 Penn State’s win over No. 2 Iowa. Parsons also has a friendship with Penn State wrestling great and current UFC up-and-comer Bo Nickal.
Looks like Micah Parsons back in State College for tonight’s wrestling match vs Iowa 🦁👀
📸: _micahparsons11 pic.twitter.com/iOogjg7b3Q
— The Basic Blues Podcast (@BasicBluesPod) January 27, 2023
Bo Nickal vs Micah Parsons 😳 pic.twitter.com/pIYraugiKo
— WrestlersGrind (@_wrestlersgrind) March 25, 2022
“He loved how competitive they were,” Franklin said, “what Cael [Sanderson] has built here. He worked out with those guys.”
Franklin also said Parsons is a “passionate bowler” and “loves to play chess. The latter hobby is shared by Penn State’s current No. 11, LB Abdul Carter.
Micah Parsons is on track to have a Hall of Fame NFL career. Franklin will be cheering him on every step of the way, but not just in football.
“He’s growing up to be a really well-rounded individual,” Franklin said. “Although he’s having a ridiculous amount of success when it comes to football, I think that’s going to be just a small part of Micah’s story. I’m very proud of him.”