FRISCO, Texas - Micah Parsons still has the DMs from Jaylon Smith stored on his phone.
Smith, while finishing up his second season as a starting linebacker with the Cowboys, reached out to Parsons in December 2019 after Penn State dominated Memphis in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium.
Smith told Parsons, "I love your game."
Parsons replied, "'Tell the Cowboys to come get me next year. I'm trying to play next to you.'
"It's kind of crazy how everything worked out," he said Friday at rookie minicamp.
Parsons had 14 tackles (three for loss), two sacks and two pass breakups in that game -- a highlight-reel performance that caught the Cowboys' attention while evaluating his college tape.
Parsons, the 12th overall pick in late April, just finished his first practice as a Cowboy. Starting out at Mike linebacker this week, he's excited about defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's plans for him within the scheme.
"I think there's third-down packages that I'm going to be in. But first and second down I'm going to be in the box and on third down they're going to find ways to get me to the quarterback, which I am excited about," Parsons said. "I think DQ is a great coordinator, one of the best ones, and he always finds ways to get his best players on the field and position to make plays and I have full faith in him."
Parsons is also looking forward to playing with Smith and fellow veteran linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who has been in contact with him since the draft.
Linebacker is a stacked depth chart, no question. Like Parsons, fourth-round pick Jabril Cox also has a chance to play early. And the Cowboys signed veteran Keanu Neal - who made a Pro Bowl playing for Quinn in Atlanta - to play a linebacker/safety role.
There's a lot of speculation about roles and snap counts. There's added competition, for sure. But as Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, the club thinks it will be a "compatible" situation where all the linebackers complement each other on the field.
Parsons sees it as an opportunity to be around two new mentors.
"I want to learn from Jaylon and Vander Esch," he said. "I see the impact they've made on this team by watching them growing up and watching them while I was in college and high school.
This is a great opportunity for me to become a better football player by these guys.
"I'm not trying to come in here and try and tell these guys what to do or anything like that. I'm just trying to earn my place."