FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Micah Parsons experienced myriad emotions in just this last week. An eight-day span of sudden uncertainty, occasional anger and, ultimately, relief culminated Sunday with a “dream come true.”
That’s how Parsons, the No. 3 overall recruit in 247Sports’ Composite 2018 rankings, described an opportunity to compete at The Opening finals, the annual summer showcase of the nation’s top high school players hosted by Nike in Oregon. The 6-foot-3, 235-pound edge rusher earned that invitation following his showing at a regional event Sunday at the New York Jets’ home complex.
An impressive performance punched his ticket to Beaverton, Ore. — at Nike’s world headquarters — to take part in a camp whose alumni list includes reigning NFL rushing champ Ezekiel Elliott and 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Offensive MVP Deshaun Watson.
Add the event to a busy offseason schedule for Parsons, the former Penn State commit who joins current Nittany Lions pledges Justin Shorter and Ricky Slade on the finals roster. These three spent Saturday, April 22, alongside 10 other Nittany Lions commits at the program’s spring game.
Parsons stuck around campus the next day, attending a Penn State baseball game with head football coach James Franklin, Harrisburg (Pa.) High School star Shaquon Anderson-Butts and 4-star New Jersey WR Jahan Dotson. Just hours later, Parsons announced the end of a 14-month Nittany Lions commitment:
? hardest decision I had to make but pic.twitter.com/s0J47fi1iC
— #blessed⭐️MVP™ (@Micah_parsons23) April 24, 2017
Social media reaction was predictably swift, and at times toxic.
“You just have to block it out, honestly,” Parsons said Sunday. “People are going to talk about you, no matter if it’s good or bad. Family, school grades and my football performance are the only things that matter to me.”
His initial commitment, declared in February 2016, became increasingly difficult to stand behind as new collegiate interests developed. Despite sustained admiration for Penn State, Parsons opted to reopen an expansive recruitment process.
“I had an amazing [time at the spring game] but just wasn’t 100-percent sure I wanted to [sign with Penn State],” he said. “People were bashing me for taking visits [elsewhere], so I decided to take my time.”
A Nittany Lions pledge since midway through his sophomore year, Parsons is embracing change.
“The fresh start has been good,” he said. “It gives me free will because I’m not signed to anybody or committed anywhere.”
And Parsons plans to stay that way for a while.
He told Land of 10 a final college choice likely won’t occur until National Signing Day, nine months from now, and that the door is open for plenty of programs. His summer travel itinerary reinforces that notion.
Parsons mentioned Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Nebraska as possible destinations before his senior year. He wants to use two official visits during the season, then take the final three official visits between December and February.
At this point, Parsons isn’t certain about where he’ll utilize any of those official visits. Ohio State, fresh off hosting him for its April 15 spring game, should be a legitimate contender.
Parsons expressed plenty of positivity about his experience in Columbus, saying he can envision himself in defensive coordinator Greg Schiano’s scheme.
“Their defense has won them a lot of games, and I think I could help make that kind of impact,” Parsons said. “I also want to be in a great defensive corps, where I can trust all the people around me and stay on my assignments.”
The Buckeyes primarily project him as a hand-in-the-dirt defender. Ohio State staff members also discussed the potential for Parsons to play in a “Jack” (hybrid linebacker/defensive end) role.
Georgia, Nebraska and USC view him as a stand-up defender.
His versatility is a topic that creates debate about his eventual landing spot on the field. He claimed linebacker MVP honors Sunday at The Opening regional but also worked at defensive end.
Parsons compared his skill set to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Myles Garrett — a former 5-star prospect himself.
“I have the ability to speed rush, dominate my opponent and hold down my side of the field,” he said.
Parsons placed himself on the national recruiting scene with a wildly successful underclassman career. He tallied 190 tackles — 47 for loss — and 32 sacks through his first two high school seasons, according to MaxPreps.
“He’s someone you want in your corner; just a great player,” 4-star DE Dorian Hardy said Sunday after sharing the field.
Final three reps of the day for 5-star edge rusher @Micah_parsons23.
Penn State definitely still in mix, but so is every school in county. pic.twitter.com/q0YHUcBHXy
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) April 30, 2017
Hardy, who attends Paramus (N.J.) Catholic High School, speaks with Parsons often. There are commonalities throughout their respective offer lists, including Alabama, Ohio State and Penn State, and he didn’t rule out a potential pairing.
“There’s never such (a) thing as being too good at a position, so if we were to team up that would be great,” Hardy said. “I can learn off of him, he can learn off of me.”
Penn State would certainly love to see that happen in Happy Valley. The Nittany Lions no longer claim Parsons’ commitment but interest remains mutual.
Several Penn State pledges reached out to Parsons in the aftermath of his de-commitment.
“They were pretty cool about it,” he said. “When I heard from (Slade), he told me take my time.”
Despite some concern Parsons may ultimately return to State College on the visitors’ sideline, commits such as Shorter express optimism.
“I was shocked at first but then I realized that it was the best decision for him to make at that time,” Shorter said. “Talking to him [Sunday at The Opening regional] I can see he still does have interest in Penn State, so there’s a possibility for him to come back to us. But this is a decision for Micah and his family to make, and we need to respect it.”