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‘I’m more than just a ballplayer’: Cowboys’ Micah Parsons shows All-Pro work off the field

Parsons recently distributed 1,000 turkeys to local families, mulls two-year Africa mission.

Cowboys
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons hands a turkey to a local family while his mother Sherese Parsons (right) watches as part of a 1,000-turkey giveaway he organized at The Star in Frisco on Nov. 18, 2022. The Salvation Army assisted in identifying and contacting families in need of support before the Thanksgiving holiday.(Michael Gehlken)

By Michael Gehlken

FRISCO — Micah Parsons did something on a football field recently that made an impression on Jerry Jones.

It was not a sack, forced fumble or tackle for loss. It was not related to Sunday’s 40-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings. The Cowboys owner had a different moment in mind when exiting U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

About two weeks ago, Parsons approached him during practice.

The 23-year-old linebacker wanted to feed local families for Thanksgiving but needed a distribution site.

“He said, ‘I got something important to me, any way you can help,’” Jones said Sunday. “He said, ‘I want to give my turkeys away at the Dallas Cowboys’ Star.’ He was so into doing it right. … He’s as naturally instinctive, savvy as any player I’ve been around. He just gets it. Totally gets it.”

Parsons gave away those turkeys — all 1,000 of them, the resources for which he personally provided and pooled together. He handed out turkeys to people who lined up their vehicles Friday in a parking lot at The Star in Frisco. The outreach is one example of Parsons’s contributions since arriving in Dallas in 2021.

As the All-Pro guides the Cowboys’ defense on the field Thursday for a Thanksgiving Day game against the New York Giants, his impact will be simultaneously felt on tables across North Texas.

“I want people to know I’m more than just a ballplayer,” Parsons said. “I’m a father, I’m a brother and I’m a son. I’m a believer. I have faith in God and faith in people. I would hate to ever be categorized into just one box because I know there’s so much inside of me and so much left that I want to do.”

That includes when he retires from football.

Parsons, of course, stands to be many years from the conclusion of his NFL career. There are personal goals he has yet to achieve. He wants to bring a sixth Super Bowl to Dallas. He wants to continue learning and growing. He wants to realize how great he can become.

He is not satisfied with initial success.

In 2021, Parsons unanimously won NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year while earning the second-most votes for AP Defensive Player of the Year. He currently is the odds-on favorite for the latter. On Sunday, he became the first Cowboys player to record at least 10 sacks in each of his first two seasons since sacks became an official league statistic in 1982.

Parsons totaled 10 sacks in the first 10 games this year. At his current pace, he’d join Aldon Smith, Reggie White, Von Miller and Derrick Thomas as the only players since 1982 to record 30 sacks in their first two seasons. He is seven sacks from 30 with seven games to go.

Still, one day, retirement will come.

Parsons has long considered what he would do next.

“I told myself I’m going on a two-year mission trip to Africa,” Parsons said. “I want to be backpacking Africa and Europe and really take my time, see the world and help change it. … Just embrace everything that I have and understand how good we have it as Americans, embrace different cultures, accept cultures and show even my culture of how I was raised.

“I don’t think our problems are just here. There are problems across the world. Everyone in the world needs love. … Ever since I was younger, I always envisioned myself traveling across the world, meeting many people and inspiring.”

Parsons called having an impact on others his “purpose.”

None of that surprises his mother.

Sherese Parsons was among the family members, friends and volunteers who joined Micah at Friday’s turkey giveaway, held on a 45-degree afternoon with the wind chill dipping into the high 30s. Cowboys defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa helped.

Sherese has seen Micah mature.

He has not forgotten where he came from, nor the struggles and financial challenges experienced in Harrisburg, Pa. He still engages with his hometown; the Salvation Army chapter in Harrisburg presented him the Celebration of Potential award in April. In October, he requested on social media the public’s assistance to reach a California teen whose bullying experience went viral; a peer shaved the teen’s head while he sobbed. Micah said afterward that he made contact with the teen.

Along with 1,000 Pride of the Farm turkeys Friday, Micah procured 500 tablets earmarked to benefit families in need.

“I think it’s amazing that he wanted to do this for the community, to give back,” Sherese said. “All our life, the struggle has been real for us, for real. To see him want to give back to the community, I think that’s awesome of him. … I always told him, ever since he was small: When you give back to people in need, the blessings come back to you.”

Micah Parsons had a vision for the giveaway.

To help realize it, the Cowboys turned to their long-standing community partner, The Salvation Army of North Texas, to connect with local families in need. Many turkeys exchanged hands by vehicle drive-up in the parking lot. Others were loaded onto trucks for more accessible delivery to those without vehicles or who couldn’t make the pickup window for other reasons, said Paul McFarland, area commander of The Salvation Army of North Texas.

About 100 such turkeys, McFarland said, were driven to the organization’s Oak Cliff operation.

“We all marvel at his athleticism,” McFarland said. “He’s already regarded as one of the top defensive players in all of the NFL. And then to find out that even as a person he’s All-Pro, it’s always encouraging, right? We always like to think of folks who are kind in that ‘hero’ status, which he certainly is, that it’s not just on the field. It’s off the field. Our interaction with him has been fantastic.”

Parsons sees a big picture to all this.

He believes an example can be set.

“There’s going to be another Micah many years from now,” Parsons said. “There’s going to be another person that’s going to come from my shoes and that’s going to be in my position. If he sees the way to do it the right way, he is going to want to change lives and open his arms and heart up to his community and things like that.

“It’s not just about me. It’s about those who are going to be behind me and even those before me. I can still change people’s hearts.”

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