School’s out for summer, but Micah Parsons has signed up for extra tutoring sessions with one of the masters of his field.
The second-year linebacker is looking to build off a transcendent first season that earned him Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. And the self-professed student of the sport who watches historic game replays, profiles on athletes ranging from Michael Jordan to Mike Tyson, and even nature documentaries to tweak his own style of play is looking to a Cowboys legend for a little skills boost heading into 2022.
DeMarcus Ware forged a friendship with Parsons last season, with the pair doing some workouts together and the nine-time Pro Bowler offering technique advice, sometimes from afar.
They’re about to pick up where they left off with some summer study.
“It’s a blessing,” Parsons said of Ware’s mentoring. “Obviously after OTAs, we’re going to have a break where I can really tap into him. Obviously, I’ve been working out at different places, but during this break, I’m going to be in Dallas and have a good timeframe for me and him to just get a one-on-one.”
The 39-year-old played his final three seasons in Denver, winning a Super Bowl with the Broncos. But then he came back to Dallas and signed a one-day contract to retire as a member of the team that drafted him 11th overall in 2005, the franchise that he amassed 576 tackles and 117 sacks for over his first nine years as a pro.
The body of work that will surely land Ware in Canton is already proving to also be excellent source material for Parsons as he figures out how to show some new wrinkles in his second NFL campaign.
“I’ve watched a little bit of him,” Parsons told reporters this week in Frisco. “I watched a little bit of everybody this offseason, just learning how different people play and how different people react to things. But I’m going to play my own style, though. I think everyone is different, but how he saw the game and his reads, I can adapt that and absorb that knowledge from him.”
Absorbing knowledge has become one of Parsons’s key traits. His coaches universally praise his relentless work ethic and disciplined study habits. And he takes the learning from wherever it may come, even hitting up his offensive counterparts to better understand the finer points of what’s happening between the snap and the whistle.
“The best thing La’el Collins told me early on when I was learning how to pass rush, he was like, ‘You’ve got make them fear one thing,’” Parsons shared. “I make them fear the speed and everything else can go off that. They’ve got to respect you in some aspect. They’ve got to fear the speed, fear the power, they’ve got to fear something about you that’s going to make them set just a little bit different. Once you show that, then you can do all your counters, all your moves and things you want to show.”
Parsons explains that watching other players’ tape, talking shop with guys at different positions, and putting in the time with veterans who’ve been there are all ways for him to simply keep adding to his own already impressive toolbox.
“I just feel way more comfortable in the defense, just understanding where I’m supposed to be at, my coverage, my alignment. I just feel so much cleaner and refreshed this year. I’m not in a panic,” the Penn State product said about making the sophomore jump. “I just think everything is clicking for me right now mentally.”
But he’d be the first to admit that there’s room to get even better. And that’s the part the Cowboys coaches are tapping into with Parsons.
Mike McCarthy separated NFL players into four tiers, but says Parsons still isn’t at the top of the class.
“They’re all really good players,” the coach said of everyone who makes it to the pro level. “Then I think the next thing is, you’ve got good players that have great moments. That would be the second category. Then the third category is: now you’ve got great players that are just individually able to perform at an extremely high level consistently. Then the top one is the elite players, and that’s what we’re all hoping that these guys develop into, because elite players make players better around them. So those are the four categories.
“Obviously, Micah had a lot of great moments last year, but our desire- and it needs to be his desire- is for him to be an elite player, not just a great player. The elite ones bring everybody with them. How they work, how they compete in practice, how they compete in the weight room, how they compete at garbage can basketball in the locker room. That’s all part of culture growth and establishing that, and that’s something that he has an opportunity to really make a huge impact on our football team.”
Parsons has already become a fixture in and around the Metroplex, showing up at basketball games, wrestling meets, hockey games, and more. Skeptics worry that the demands of being the newest celebrity member of America’s Team are stealing the player’s focus from working on his game.
McCarthy is well aware of the concern.
“I’ll just say this of all the years I’ve talked about and emphasized making the second-year jump,” the coach elaborated. “The Dallas Cowboys is the biggest challenge ever, and that’s going to be part of his challenge. He’s been extremely celebrated and so forth, and he’s done a lot. I don’t think he’s missed a hockey game. I don’t think he’s missed anything outside of here. But that’s all part of the challenge.”
As for Parsons, the 23-year-old is just taking it all in.
“I’m just enjoying Dallas, just doing new experiences,” he said. “Going to places I’ve never been. Just enjoying life and what comes with it.”
But as football season rolls back around, taking it all in for Parsons means absorbing as much knowledge as he can about how to be an even more dominant force for the Cowboys defense.
And if those new experiences can include one-on-one personal study with a future Hall of Famer, so much the better.
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