Hundreds of fans and students waited and hoped Wednesday morning to hear two words escape the lips of five-star Harrisburg recruit Micah Parsons: “Penn State.”
In the end, on the first day of the early signing period, the Harrisburg senior shouted two other words that made the crowd just as happy: “We are!”
At the end of a 30-minute ceremony, held at the Whitaker Center on Market Street, Parsons told an auditorium bursting with classmates, family, friends and fans that he was committing to Penn State. A moment later, the right side of the auditorium rushed the stage — reaching for Parsons’ hand as if he were the star at a high-profile concert.
“It feels good,” Parsons said moments afterward. “We’re about to make noise up there.”
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Students shouted and most rose to their feet as an overwhelming sense of excitement washed over fans of the blue and white. Parsons, a consensus five-star defensive end who will play inside linebacker, is one of the highest-ranked commits the Nittany Lions have ever reeled in.
247 Sports, whose composite rankings date back to 2000, has never listed Penn State with a commit ranked higher than Parsons’ No. 4 overall national ranking. (Wideout Derrick Williams was also No. 4, in 2005.) Ditto for ESPN, whose rankings first started in 2006.
“He’s a once-in-a-generation type of athlete,” said Calvin Everett, Parsons’ high school coach at Harrisburg. “Because of his speed and pure athleticism, he’s able to play so many different positions — and be great at them. That’s why so many top-notch programs are coming to Harrisburg High School.”
Parsons told the Centre Daily Times that he was awake until 3 a.m., uncertain what school he might pick — although, based on a video he played during the ceremony, that teased his chosen school, the decision must have been made at least a few days ago.
Georgia and Oklahoma were both in play until late, Parsons’ father, Terrence, said. But in the end, proximity, familiarity and family played some of the biggest roles.
And, when defensive coordinator Brent Pry decided to stay, “that pretty much solidified it,” Terrence Parsons said, adding that his son “possibly’ would’ve gone elsewhere if Pry left.
“Family,” Micah said, when asked why he committed to Penn State. “Family means more than football.”
At least a dozen reporters were on-hand for the event, and the crowd stretched into the mezzanine. Classmates of Parsons pulled out their phones and snapped photos the moment he announced he was heading to Happy Valley. And in the city that’s just a 90-minute drive from Beaver Stadium, the excitement and loud murmuring lasted even while the crowd exited the auditorium.
Parsons’ recruitment was a whirlwind from start to finish. He committed to the Nittany Lions in February 2016, decommitted in April 2017 and then appeared well on his way to becoming a Buckeye. However, Ohio State reportedly stopped recruiting him after it committed a violation Sept. 9 when alum Kirk Herbstreit met with Parsons on the College GameDay set in Columbus.
Terrence Parsons said he just assumed Ohio State stopped recruiting his son because of his ill-advised tweet that stated backup quarterback Dwayne Haskins should get the start over starter J.T. Barrett. And Terrence took exception to Tuesday’s news about the GameDay visit. He said that was never communicated to his family.
“When the article came out yesterday, I was really disturbed because it wasn’t true,” Terrence said. “When they said he asked to go by the GameDay set — they gave us passes, called us on the stage, and the rest is history.”
Said Micah: “I have no hate on them. I’m just here to play ball and get my family out of here.”
Parsons, wearing a white Penn State hat and gold chains around a white long-sleeve shirt, spoke softly and calmly Wednesday while chaos ensued around him. After the ceremony, he couldn’t walk a few feet without questions from reporters, photo requests from fans and hugs from family members. He took it all in stride.
Minutes before the announcement was made official, Parsons’ high school coach wore a smile as he turned to the crowd and tried to wring out every ounce of anticipation.
“Before I wrap this up,” Everett told the rowdy crowd, “I just want to know: Is Micah Parsons going to Oklahoma? Let me hear some noise if he’s going to Oklahoma.”
A smattering of applause followed. “Ohio State?” Boos this time, with a lone classmate shouting, “No! We Are!” Then Everett went from Nebraska and Georgia, when a handful of the crowd started barking. But once it got to Penn State? Cheers and applause echoed throughout the auditorium, as the home crowd loudly murmured about the potential pick.
“In the end,” he said in his announcement video, which he watched as it played above the stage. “There is no place like home.”