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BY JEFF FALK

Photos Courtesy of Penn State Athletics

   Everybody has a story. And they’re all fascinating.

  Micah Parson’s is the story of a local boy making good. It’s a story of rising up and overcoming adversity. It’s a story of hope, positivity and accountability.

 But more than anything, it’s a story that is yet unwritten.

  Can’t wait to see how this one plays out.

 Parsons is the next chapter in a long line of outstanding football players authored by the city of Harrisburg. In just two short seasons, the former Harrisburg Cougar and Central Dauphin Ram has already left his mark on Penn State’s iconic football program.

 Consider this: Parsons is just beginning to come into his own, as a person and a football player. When he does, only then will he realize his ceiling.

 “For me, the short-term goal was to go to a bowl game and do what I love to do,” said Parsons. “In my junior year, I want to double what I did this year. I want to execute early on, instead of coming on late. Then win a Big Ten title and a national championship.

Penn State’s Micah Parsons (11) during third quarter action of the Nittany Lions game with Indiana. Penn State defeated Indiana, 34-27 on Military Appreciation Day on Nov. 16, 2019 in Beaver Stadium. Photo by Mark Selders

 “Life is already made for you by God,” added Parsons. “I think God has a plan for me. The future is already written, but He hasn’t revealed it to me yet. But there are a lot of bumps that can happen along the way.”

 This fall, the nation learned what Harrisburg and Penn State already knew – that Parsons is one of the best linebackers in the country. The Harrisburg native received the Butkus-Fitzgerald award as the Big Ten Conference’s linebacker of the year, becoming the first sophomore ever to be honored with the award.

 Overall, he was the third Nittany Lion to garner the recognition, following in the footsteps of former Penn Staters  Mike Hull in 2014 and Michael Mauti in 2012. During the season, Parsons led the Nittany Lions in tackles with 95 tackles, and also recorded three sacks and forced two fumbles.

 Combining athleticism, instincts and a knack for making big plays, the 6-3, 245-pound Parsons was a disruptive force for the Penn State defense this year and a nightmare for opposing offenses to block. Parsons’ individual efforts helped the Nittany Lions achieve an overall record of 10-2 and reach a major college bowl game, collectively.

 “Coach (James) Franklin called me and told me,” said Parsons of learning of the prestigious honor. “I was really excited. I got emotional. When I came here, I had a vision. You always talk your dreams into reality. When I came here, I wanted to be a Penn State starter, and I’m achieving everything I wanted. It makes me and my mom really, really happy. I’m just glad to make her happy.

 “It has sunk in a little bit now, with all the newspaper articles,” Parsons added. “At first, I was like, ‘It still doesn’t feel real.’ I was really shocked, because I was the first sophomore to win it.”

 What makes the 20-year-old Parsons’ accomplishments even more amazing is the fact he has only played the position of linebacker for a couple of seasons. But he has really grown into his role on the Penn State defense, after being converted from a defensive end into a linebacker.

  “My job is to make sure I do all my reads and assignments,” said Parsons. “When I get a chance to make a play, I want to shift momentum towards my team. I try to be the guy to lift the team up. But I think I had a pretty good year.

 “Earlier in the year, I was getting used to things again,” Parsons continued. “There was some transition from last year. But I got rid of a few mistakes and cleaned up my game. Linebacker is one of those positions where you can never stop improving. I’ve gone from not knowing too much to knowing something about it.”

Penn State’s Micah Parsons (11) during fourth quarter action with Ohio State. The No.8 Nittany Lions scored 17 points in less than four minutes in the third quarter, but it was not enough as No. 2 Ohio State hung on for a 28-17 victory Saturday Nov. 23, 2019 in Ohio Stadium. Photo by Mark Selders

 In 2018, Parsons became the first freshman to lead the Nittany Lions in tackles, despite only starting one game.

 “I never knew I was a linebacker until I got here,” said Parsons. “I played running back in high school, and they had me at defensive end. I just kind of grew into the position. Before I signed with Penn State, they asked me, ‘How do you feel about playing linebacker?’ It was a chance to prove myself. I took on the challenge. Now it’s all good.”

  As a senior in high school, Parsons was one of the most highly sought-after players in the country, after leading Harrisburg High to an 11-1 record in 2017. He scored 29 touchdowns as a Cougar running back, while playing defensive end on the other side of the ball.

 Parsons transferred to Harrisburg as a junior, after spending his first two seasons at Central Dauphin.

 “In high school, I had a lot of trials and tribulations,” said Parsons. “But I learned a lot. I think Harrisburg was another culture shock for me. My parents split up, and my mom, my brother and my sister, we had to struggle our way through things.

 “There’s real love and there’s fake love,” continued Parsons. “I’m big on who was there for me from the very beginning. But to see how many people have gotten behind me is astonishing.”

 There were some who doubted whether or not Parsons would make it at Penn State. Parsons turned that doubt into motivation.

 “When I was going through it, there were naysayers and people who didn’t believe in me,” said Parsons. “I think there was like a big bomb inside of me, looking to prove they were wrong. Some people said I wouldn’t go to college or even graduate from high school. But Penn State is one of the best academic schools in the country.

 “On the football field, I want to play at 110 percent,” added Parsons. “I want to show I can be a very good linebacker. It’s a chip on my shoulder that has weighed very hard on me. Now we’re on a path to do good things.”

   So it appears that Parsons has become the author of his own story. The future is at his mercy.

 “I guess my message would be: ‘Follow your dreams, no matter what. Keep going,’” said Parsons. “There are no excuses. Always make a positive influence. Be a difference maker. Strive for greatness.

 “One day, I want to help my community,” concluded Parsons. “I think Harrisburg is one of the best cities. But some people don’t make it out.”

 Another story worth telling.

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