FRISCO, Texas — Micah Parsons, a black leather-bound Bible in his right hand and a glass bottle of The Mountain Valley Sparkling Water in his left hand, loves talking.
And it doesn’t matter whether he’s throwing out his opinions on his weekly podcast The Edge with Micah Parsons, conversing with followers on X, formerly known as Twitter, or bantering with the local media.
He’s earned the right.
After all, you can make a case for Dallas Cowboys linebacker Parsons being the NFL’s best defensive player. If not, he’s certainly in the conversation with the Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett, Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt and San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa. On a picturesque fall day, Parsons addresses a throng of adoring media, who are thrilled to listen to one of the league’s few players who speaks without a filter.
“We don’t want it just to be, ‘Oh, we’ve got 11 guys who’s ready to go to war.’ In the movie 300, they had 300 men, and they’re still grinding,” Parsons said. “They’re saying, ‘All of us, we’re going to anchor down, and we’re going to fight and we’re going to kill.’ That’s how we feel about every guy on our roster.”
Then, he talks about being the embodiment of a lion.
“When I get my chance to talk in front of the room, I talk about the lion hunting and the preciseness and how methodical it has to be,” Parsons said, “And how lions have to work as a team to get what they need, and so they can feed their family. I said, ‘if you look at this, this is what we are doing. We are out here trying to hunt this guy and trying to kill these people so we can feed our families.’
“That’s our why. No matter if it’s nature or in life, everyone has their why. Every week, we get a chance to go out there and fight for ours. I said we got to be a pack of lions.”
Parsons had 26.5 sacks, 33 tackles for loss and 56 quarterback hits in his first two seasons. Entering Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Chargers (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN and ABC), Parsons has 4 sacks, 6 tackles for loss and 8 quarterback hits.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he’s created a lion-inspired sack celebration.
“I was practicing it in camp when I was just joking around with [quarterback] Dak [Prescott], growling at him and crawling at him,” Parsons said, “And someone said you should really do that. I was like, ‘why don’t I just try it out?’ And now people love the crawl. So, I’m trying to find a name for it.”
Understand, the celebrations are fun, but Parsons is obsessed with greatness.
Last season, he finished second behind Bosa in voting for Defensive Player of the Year, but he attacked the offseason as though he were on the practice squad. He told defensive coordinator Dan Quinn that he was going to spend the offseason working out on his own in Austin, about 200 miles south of Dallas.
Notice, he didn’t ask for permission. Parsons wanted to isolate himself.
He wanted to add 10 pounds of muscle because he believed playing at 255 pounds would allow his body to withstand the pounding that comes from playing rush end and consistently matching up against 330-pound tackles. He wanted to improve his quickness and make his hands more violent by working with boxing and martial arts instructors.
The 12th player selected in the 2021 draft doesn’t have an off button.
“He’s a one-of-a-kind athlete, not only when you talk about his speed and his strength but the motor and effort that he plays with is unreal,” said defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa. “That’s what really separates him.
“There are big dudes who run just as fast, but they’re not doing what he does on the field. The quickness. The balance. His hands. He believes he can make every single play. He lifts the whole room. The energy is contagious.”
Everything Parsons does is about maximizing his talent and pushing himself beyond his comfort zone. It’s why he started his offseason workouts at 5 a.m., and why he spent a week working with future Hall of Fame tackle Andrew Whitfield to understand an elite left tackle’s mindset.
He speaks with Hall of Fame defensive end DeMarcus Ware every couple of weeks. Their conversations focus on the game’s nuances, like the best pass rushers can decipher play action passes in an instant and quickly transition from run stopping to pass rushing.
“From a preparation standard, I can see him chasing greatness,” Ware said. “He has great athleticism and he tries to play the game to a higher standard than a lot of other people.
“You see the way he chases the ball and the way he makes plays and he plays with so much tenacity he turns up everybody on the field.”
He made one of those plays against the New York Jets in Week 2. Parsons, who lined up in a two-point stance at right defensive end, held the edge, shed the tight end’s block and tackled running back Dalvin Cook. In the process, he stripped the ball from Cook. He scooped it up and immediately side-stepped a tackler and sprinted 37 yards for an apparent touchdown.
The officials ruled he had been touched before he started running, so the touchdown was negated but the turnover stood.
Ask his teammates on offense or defense and they all have a story about an amazing play Parsons has made. They might talk about his incredible play against the Chicago Bears in 2022 when he went from rushing the passer at the Chicago 10-yard line to recovering a fumble at the Chicago 37 and returning it for a touchdown.
Just so you know, that’s coach Mike McCarthy’s favorite play.
Quinn’s favorite occurred against Detroit in 2022, when Parsons chased down tight end Brock Wright on a screen pass and knocked him out of bounds just inside the Dallas 1.
The Lions fumbled on the next play.
“The way he chases guys down and closes the gap, it’s just not normal,” backup quarterback Cooper Rush said. “Two years ago, Justin Herbert was rolling out and quarterbacks have a natural sense of ‘I’ve got one more step before I get rid of it.’ We feel it. Herbert’s running and he took one extra step and Micah’s in his chest.
“He still threw it away, but he took a big hit. That’s how you know Micah has a different speed that we’re used to.”
The only question about Parsons is how much the Cowboys will have to pay him when it’s time for his contract extension.
Bosa signed a six-year extension worth $188.9 million. Parsons will probably become the NFL’s first $200-million defensive player.
It’s a check the Jones family won’t mind writing.
“He wants to be great and he’ll do whatever it takes to compete at the highest level,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said. “Dak has the same makeup.
“Micah’s got something very few have. Maybe Deion [Sanders] had it. Maybe Bo Jackson had it. Micah has rare skills. To be his size — 6-3 and 255 — and run a legit 4.3 … just like you saw Deion speed and Bo speed, and he packs some strength in his body.
“He’s taking 300-pound tackles and throwing them with one arm like they’re not there.”
That’s why the Jones family won’t mind eventually making him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player.