Hey rook, welcome to the NFL.
You've worked your entire life for this moment. You’ve bled, you’ve sweat and you’ve cried, hurdling litanies of obstacles and responding valiantly to every setback that’s tried to block your path — and now you’re here.
You've finally made it, and can tell all your family, friends and loved ones that you've arrived.
But, oh quite the contrary young man. You haven’t done a thing yet, and to every rookie that’s just been anointed with the blessing that is playing professional football, your true work is just now beginning.
The real deal is upon you.
There’s no Jon Gruden to break down film-room tape with you as he applauds you with “atta-boys” after the two of you dissect a tremendous play you made. No HBO cameras to add a decorative Hollywood dressing to the grit and grind marathon that is the NFL. And no one (extra emphasis on the no one) is going to be there to hold your hand, and babysit you along the way as you take your first steps out of the college nest and into the iron jungle.
Which of course means, your room for error has just shrunk indubitably. All t’s must now be crossed, and i’s dotted, and the ways of your past life must be put to bed, comfortably tucked away for a permanent slumber.
And for some rookies, these aforementioned “past ways” are ones they’ll be hurriedly eager to relegate to the depths of Forgotten-land.
Micah Parsons is one such rookie.
The Cowboys’ first overall selection in 2021 enjoyed a uniquely brilliant college tenure, amassing 191 total tackles to go with 6.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.
He was an absolute force manning the middle for the Nittany Lions defense, possessing an extraordinary blend of size, quickness and instincts that conjure up recollections of another heralded linebacker who spent his seminary playing days in State College — Sean Lee.
Dallas hopes that Parsons can become exactly what Lee was for the team during his own prime, albeit with a much different track record of health. And while the two exhibited stark similarities in terms of on-field playmaking abilities, their off-field ledger revealed much different tendencies.
Parson’s name flared into the spotlight heading into this year’s draft, as accountability and maturity concerns began to surface following his involvement in several controversies at Penn State.
The most notable was a 2020 hazing lawsuit filed by a former Penn State player against the school, and coach James Franklin that involved Parsons. No charges, however, were filed in the civil action, and Parsons was not named a defendant.
Parsons was involved in a fight with that same teammate, Isaiah Humphries in 2018. Humphries claimed that Parsons choked him during the scuffle.
“At the end of the day, I believe that I was a kid,” Parsons said in regards to his past.
“I was 17-18. We all made mistakes when we were 17-18. I’m not going to let it control or dictate the person I am now. I’m not going to let something that was 3-4 years [ago] dictate who I’ve become and the father I want to be.”
Anybody who’s willing to accept my wrongs when I was wrong and accept my rights when I’m right, I’m ready to go ahead and give it my all. But if it’s going to come down to something that I did in high school or something I wish I could change, I can only control what I can control and what I do moving forward.”
He’s determined to keep the past exactly where it is.
And he’ll have a support system around him to help him accomplish just that. Coaches, trainers, front office execs, all will hold weight in his path towards an unblemished pro career, and all will be equally dependent on Parsons himself to uphold his end of the bargain as they strive for success in efforts to help him thrive.
So much will weigh upon Parsons’ shoulders as the season gets underway, and his actions, good or bad, will affect everyone throughout the organization.
Just ask the people at the top of the totem pole.
“We did a tremendous amount of homework,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said about Parsons.
“We felt really good about anything he had that there might be a concern about. We did backwards forwards any which way you can do it.”
So far, Parsons has done nothing but shine. He’s been called “dynamic” as a multi-positional threat by Mike McCarthy, and Parsons himself said he wants to be a “dominant, Rambo force” at the MIKE spot in Dan Quinn’s defense.
He’s expressed his excitement to learn from guys like Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith, both of whom reached out to him moments after he was drafted. The two of them will play huge roles in ensuring he’s productive on the field, and keeps his hands clean off it.
Plus, he’ll have a key mentor with whom he shares a specific bond that can give him the blueprint on remaining stainless.
Parsons knows this all too well.
“I know who Sean (Lee) represents what type of player he was,” Parsons said. “He’s an All-Pro player and hopefully one day we can link up in Dallas and I can use him as a great mentor and get better.”
He’s got the talent to usurp Lee’s career production, and if he mirrors anything that #50 brought to Dallas’ defense throughout the 2010s, Parsons’ selection has to be considered a win for the Cowboys.