Long before Micah Parsons and Shaquon Anderson-Butts led Harrisburg (Pa.) High School to its first state title game and attracted attention from college football coaches across America, they discovered the sport together. Now carrying dozens of combined scholarship offers, this tandem could remain intact for years to come.
“Micah and I grew up as close friends, and now we’re going through this process together,” Anderson-Butts said. “We’ve pretty much played on the same team since we were like 4 years old. We trust each other on and off the field.”
Considered the No. 61 receiver nationally and No. 11 among Pennsylvania prospects in 247Sports’ 2018 composite rankings, Anderson-Butts aims to end his recruitment this summer. He’ll search for an ideal destination, potentially alongside Parsons, a 5-star talent who is the No. 1 defensive end and No. 3 overall recruit in composite rankings.
For more than a year, Penn State appeared to be the most likely landing spot.
Parsons spent 14 months committed to the Nittany Lions, and he attended the April 22 spring game with Anderson-Butts, a 3-star prospect. They remained in Happy Valley the following day, attending a Penn State baseball game with coach James Franklin and fellow target Jahan Dotson.
Hours later, Parsons announced his departure from a Penn State class presently listed as No. 3 in 247Sports’ composite rankings. He told Land of 10 a “fresh start” was necessary moving forward with the recruiting process, as motivation to visit other campuses became a priority.
Parsons and Anderson-Butts are set to visit at least two SEC campuses – Alabama and Florida – together this summer.
The Crimson Tide extended an offer to Parsons before the end of his sophomore year, while Anderson-Butts said he hopes to make an impression on the staff during their stay June 9-10 in Tuscaloosa. Alabama identified Harrisburg High as a focus this spring, as evidenced by Cougars coach Calvin Everett’s recent tweet:
— Coach Cal (@hbgcougarcoach) May 10, 2017
They both carry a Florida offer, and Anderson-Butts referred to the Gators as his “childhood favorite” upon receiving that opportunity April 25.
“When I was little and watching ESPN, Florida used to always be on there,” he said. “It was Urban Meyer, Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin – they were big time. I loved watching them play.”
Although Anderson-Butts mostly has outgrown any college football fandom since becoming a FBS recruit, he acknowledged that a visit from the Gators coaching staff earlier this month provided a memorable moment.
“It was really cool,” Anderson-Butts said. “When they came in person, it showed they really want me.”
— Coach Cal (@hbgcougarcoach) May 4, 2017
Along with Alabama and Florida, Anderson-Butts will attempt to see other campuses soon. He listed Arizona, Kentucky and Oregon as specific universities of interest while piecing together a travel schedule.
That could make things tight for his current commitment timeline.
He teased he would make an announcement on June 25, his birthday, and he hasn’t said that date will change. Anderson-Butts said he wants to trim his list of options to three or four programs before he makes his choice.
“It’s important for the coaching staff to be close with my family, and have everyone on the same page with everything,” he said. “That’s how I’ll find which school best fits me.”
Penn State target Shaquon Anderson-Butts (@anderson_quon) cruises past DB for this touchdown reception.
— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) April 30, 2017
Parsons told Land of 10 he is unlikely to reach a decision until this winter. He wants to use all five official visits, including two during the season, and identified Clemson, Florida State, Miami, Nebraska and Ohio State as other schools of interest.
Now a month removed from his decommitment, and the backlash that inevitably follows such declarations, Parsons is putting together a new game plan. His friend helped him move beyond much of the drama he experienced this past month.
“I told him not to pay attention to the stuff on Twitter because with every school, no matter where it is, you’re going to have great fans and you’re going to have bad fans,” Anderson-Butts said. “You can’t let that affect you.”
Anderson-Butts will return to State College this summer, attending the “Lion Strong” seven-on-seven camp June 17. It remains to be seen whether Parsons will also compete in the event or Penn State’s Big Man Challenge that same day.
“It’s kind of getting back to normal now for Micah,” Anderson-Butts said. “He still talks to Penn State, so it’s not like he just decommitted and didn’t want to deal with those coaches anymore. Everybody is understanding, and everybody is cool with it.”
He explained the Nittany Lions are one of several teams that suggest the duo jump into the same recruiting class.
“A lot of schools say, ‘Why don’t you just both come here and win together?’ We definitely hear that,” Anderson-Butts said.
It appears things could be trending in that direction.
Land of 10 tweeted a picture of Anderson-Butts with Penn State gloves on Sunday from the Under Armour All-America camp series in Montvale, N.J. The post hinted that a “package deal” could be on the table for him and Parsons, and the latter was quick to confirm:
We been a package deal 💯💯 https://t.co/fX0ZIMvQOe
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) May 22, 2017
This is a term we see used quite liberally on the recruiting trail each cycle. Sometimes it does indeed come to fruition, but far more often, hometown friends go separate ways for the next phase of their respective football careers.
We might not know the outcome here until February, but considering the shared campus visits and Parsons’ social media response, a potential package deal is clearly on the mind of both players.
Anderson-Butts, a 6-foot-1, 202-pound prospect, averaged 20.5 yards per reception in 2016, according to Brian Linder of PennLive.com. He caught 38 passes for 779 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Parsons, who hits the field at 6-3, 235 pounds, erupted for 190 tackles — 47 for loss — and 32 sacks as a high school underclassman, per MaxPreps. He transferred from Central Dauphin High to Harrisburg High as a junior, securing 17 tackles for loss and 10 sacks, according to Aaron Carr of PennLive.com.
“I have the ability to speed rush, dominate my opponent and hold down my side of the field,” Parsons told Land of 10 shortly before earning an invitation to The Opening finals in Beaverton, Ore., at Nike’s world headquarters.
From the bottom I came, now I run this game. Literally‼️ eat or starve 🏴 pic.twitter.com/tS4vKmrbjP
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) May 5, 2017
A school’s mutual acquisition of Anderson-Butts and Parsons would provide that program with a boost on both sides of the ball. Whether it ultimately happens remains uncertain, but expect several coaching staffs to pursue the possibility.