With the 12th overall choice, Dallas selected Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.

He will help a defense that gave up the most points in franchise history last season.

He joins a linebackers room that includes a former first-round choice in Leighton Vander Esch and a former second-round choice in Jaylon Smith. Vander Esch made the Pro Bowl as a rookie but played only 19 games combined the past two seasons because of neck issues.

Sean Lee, another former Penn State linebacker whom the Cowboys drafted in the second round in 2010, retired last week.

Parsons will be penciled in as an anchor and playmaker of the Cowboys defense as soon as Week 1, but it won’t be the first time that he has shown his abilities in AT&T Stadium. In fact, he had a dominant performance as the 2019 Cotton Bowl MVP against Memphis. That was when the notion of being a Dallas Cowboy became something he envisioned for himself.

“I wanted to finish what I started,” Parsons said. “I fell in love with that stadium.”

He recorded 14 tackles (three for a loss), two sacks, and two forced fumbles in that game, and he expects it to be the first of many shows he puts on in that building. His selection as the No. 12 overall pick by the Cowboys came only three days after the official announcement of Sean Lee’s retirement, which left an opening in the linebacker rotation and an even bigger vacuum in defensive leadership. The Cowboys selected Lee out of Penn State with the 55th overall pick in 2010, and they went right back to what is nicknamed “Linebacker U” to select Parsons 11 years later.

“I know what Sean represents,” Parsons said. “Hopefully one day, we can link up in Dallas and I can use him as a great mentor and get better.”

If all goes according to plan, the Cowboys’ linebacker core will be made up of three young linebackers all drafted with first or second round draft picks: Parsons, Jaylon Smith, and Leighton Vander Esch. The speed, athleticism, instincts, and pedigree between the three of them is a rare combination, and Parsons expects to be the final piece.