Jerry Jones was determined to land a difference-maker on defense — even if he had to take a player with question marks about his character who opted out of last season because of COVID-19 concerns.
After allowing the most points in franchise history last year (473), the Cowboys had to improve their defense. Top cornerbacks Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II weren’t there at No. 10, so they traded back two spots — and added a third-round pick in the process in a trade with the division-rival Eagles — and wound up with Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 12.
Parsons notched 109 total tackles as a sophomore in 2019 but didn’t play last year. During his predraft press conference, Jones said players who opted against playing were “compromised.” It didn’t stop the Cowboys owner and CEO from selecting the Penn State linebacker, who has good size (6-foot-3, 246 pounds), speed (4.39 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and athleticism (34-inch vertical leap). In two seasons, he had 6.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.
“I’m very focused on the ability to make plays on the ball,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said.
There were questions about his character. He was suspended from his first high school for allegedly “inciting a riot” in 2016 — he yelled “Gun!” while police were in the cafeteria, his father told PennLive.com after watching soundless surveillance footage of the incident — and he and other Penn State football players were accused of hazing another teammate in a 2020 civil lawsuit.
“I heard a lot of allegations about me,” said Parsons, the first linebacker taken. “But the good don’t always come with the bad. … There’s actually nothing on me at all. All allegations are false.”
He joins a linebackers room that includes former Pro Bowler Leighton Vander Esch but lost Sean Lee to retirement. Incidentally, Parsons’ last college game came at his new home: AT&T Stadium. In a Cotton Bowl win over Memphis, he had 14 tackles and two sacks.
“This moment is so big, y’all don’t even understand,” Parsons said on ESPN. “My parents were Cowboys fans, and all last year I said I was going to Dallas. If God’s not real, I don’t know what is. This is so unreal, it’s crazy.”