If Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons is serious about wrestling, then he’ll still have to prove his sincerity to wrestling coach Cael Sanderson.
Sanderson acknowledged during Tuesday’s media day that the former five-star football recruit approached him over the summer about the possibility of joining the reigning national champions. But Sanderson still doesn’t think the freshman linebacker was serious.
“Well, I know he wrestled up through eighth grade, and I heard he was a really good wrestler. I mean he’s a phenomenal athlete; he’s a very good wrestler,” Sanderson said. “But I don’t know. I think he just likes to joke around and just kind of play games. I think that’s kind of his personality.”
Because Parsons is a true freshman, he is not available to the media because of a policy by head football coach James Franklin. But Franklin shared with reporters a week ago that Parsons wants to do everything at once.
“Micah wants to play linebacker, he wants to play running back, and he wants to wrestle for Cael,” Franklin said. “And he’s not kidding. He talked to Cael about it.”
Franklin added, “He says it, kidding around, but he’s deadly serious.” Parsons tweeted several laughing emojis at the time with the statement, “I’m not kidding!”
Sanderson still thinks he was.
Parsons had Sanderson’s phone number from visiting as a recruit a number of times back in high school. So, one day during the summer, Sanderson recalled Parsons’ name flashing across his cell phone — and just assumed it was a pocket-dial.
He texted Parsons back and asked, “Hey, you mean to call me?” Parsons called him right back.
“And he’s like, ‘Coach, I’m ready. I want to come try out for the team,’” Sanderson recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Well, you need to talk to Coach Franklin about that. You’re a five-star recruit; I don’t think he wants you to be wrestling.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, I’ve got Coach Franklin right here next to me. You’re on speaker phone.’
“But that was the last of it. I just think he had some free time there.”
Franklin trying to get Parsons to focus: Franklin said he’s worked with Parsons on focusing at one thing at a time and getting really good at it, before moving on to the next goal. So far this season, on the gridiron, that focus has paid dividends.
Despite splitting time with Koa Farmer, Parsons is still tied for the team lead in tackles (51) with middle linebacker Jan Johnson. Parsons also boasts the second-most QB hurries on the team with four and has a single tackle-for-loss. He’s essentially a lock to make every All-Big Ten freshman team.
Parsons considered wrestling his senior high school season at Harrisburg but opted against it and instead focused on football and basketball before enrolling early at Penn State.
Sanderson complimented the in-state product’s athleticism. But it just didn’t seem as if wrestling was a real option this season.
“He’s a competitor and a great wrestler,” Sanderson added. “I think he grew up with a lot of the kids that are on our team now, some of the recruits we have coming into the program, and I think he was at the Ohio State dual meet last year. So he kind of saw the atmosphere and probably — I mean, they have that over there at Beaver Stadium times 10 — but, yeah, I think he’s probably just playing around a little bit.”