Penn State star linebacker Micah Parsons -- a potential top-10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft -- has opted out of playing the 2020 college football season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The highest-rated Nittany Lions player recruited by coach James Franklin posted his decision in a video on his personal Instagram account.
"As I considered my options for the 2020 season, I decided that I needed to make a choice not for myself, but for my son and those dearest to me," he said. "While I felt safe with the health and safety standards as we returned to Penn State for workouts, the potential risk to the health and well-being of my son far outweighed my urge to play football season."
Parsons racked up 109 tackles, including 14 tackles for loss, and five sacks as a sophomore last season while earning consensus All-American honors and the Big Ten's Linebacker of the Year award. He was also a Butkus Award finalist.
The decision was likely not an easy one for Parsons, who had two seasons of eligibility remaining entering 2020 and stated goals of winning a national championship at Penn State.
"I am unbelievably proud of Micah and appreciative of how he has represented our football program, this university and the state of Pennsylvania. My job as the head coach of Penn State is to help everybody in our organization achieve their dreams and Micah is a great example," coach James Franklin said in a statement.
"Micah and I have had many conversations about his NFL aspirations throughout the recruiting process and his time at Penn State; he is now ready to pursue those opportunities. I fully support Micah, his decision to opt out of the 2020 season and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft. Again, I couldn't be more proud of him and I am excited to see him play on Sundays in 2021."
Parsons' choice comes in the wake of fellow Big Ten star and Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman deciding to skip the season to prepare for the NFL Draft. If there is a season, Penn State will feel Parsons' absence. The Nittany Lions are ranked as the preseason No. 7 in the Preseason Coaches Poll, which was released on Thursday.
The Pennsylvania native was a five-star prospect in the Class of 2018 and came in as high as No. 4 in a series of 2021 NFL mock drafts conducted by CBS Sports experts in June.
Parsons earned spots on the preseason watch lists for the Butkus Award, Bednarik Award and Lott IMPACT Trophy. He joins Bateman and Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley as potential first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft who have already opted out of the college football season.