FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga – Kyle Pitts still remembers the play.
Former Archbishop Wood head coach Steve Devlin still has the clip on his phone and shows it to people today. Devlin was on the opposite sideline when he heard the crowd roar and saw a player airborne but could not see what happened clearly.
"I just remember seeing Kyle pick a guy up and throw him," said Devlin, now defensive coordinator at Ursinus College to Atlantafalcons.com. "Literally scooping him up and landing on the guy's back. This was a 230-pound kid at the time, and Kyle picked him up and put him down like he was a piece of candy."
Pitts, playing defensive end, shed an offensive lineman, wrapped up then-Harrisburg high school running back and linebacker Micah Parsons, lifting the 230-pound Parsons in the air before finishing the tackle through the ground.
"I just lifted 'em," Pitts said with a smile. "It was just instinct; it was pretty fun… I shed the blocker, and I got Micah, and I dumped 'em."
Kyle Pitts' father, Kelly, still has the highlight on his phone, too. He remembers celebrating in the crowd like it was yesterday.
"Parsons was like the big dog, so when Kyle caught him off the edge and dumped 'em, the whole stadium went crazy," Kelly Pitts told Atlantafalcons.com. "The Harrisburg side was shocked because they hadn't seen their guy get handled like that."
Five years ago, the two future NFL first-round picks matched up against each other in Hershey, Pa., when Pitts and Archbishop Wood took on Micah Parsons and Harrisburg High School for the 2016 5A state championship.
Back then, Parsons was a superstar in Pennsylvania.
He was a five-star recruit and rated the fifth-best player in the country by 24/7 sports composite rankings. His Harrisburg team was playing in its first-ever state championship. On the other side, Pitts was a part of a perennial powerhouse Wood team that was a regular in the state title game. Pitts hadn't yet garnered the national attention parsons had — he was ranked 162nd in the nation by 24/7sports — and because of that, Pitts had hoped to make a statement.
"He was running all over people catching kick returns; in high school, he was doing everything," Pitts said. "He was a special player."
Pitts and the run-heavy Wood offense dominated Harrisburg 37-10 to win their fourth straight state title, though Pitts was more of a decoy on offense that day rather than the dynamic tight end that he is known as now. Still, Pitts caught a touchdown that day on one of two of Wood's completed passes, per PApreplive.com, and made an impact on defense.
"That still hurts my soul," Parsons said in a press conference on Wednesday, "so I definitely owe Kyle."
Parsons will get an opportunity for payback this Sunday when the Falcons take on the Cowboys at 1 p.m. at AT&T stadium.
Since their high school matchup, Pitts and Parsons became stars at the collegiate level, with Parsons dominating in the Big Ten at Penn State and Pitts in the SEC with Florida. Following college, the two trained together in Los Angeles before the NFL draft with first-round picks, Justin Fields and Jaycee Horn, which the NFL chronicled in the Hey Rookie Welcome to the NFL documentary.
Pitts and Parsons competed in everything from the weight room to 40-yard dash times, and of course, talked a lot about that state title game. Pitts reminded Parsons that the Wood defense held him to just 23 yards, and at the NFL draft in Cleveland, the two joked about the play where Pitts "dumped" Parsons.
"He tried to say he dumped me or whatever, so I owe him maybe a dump or two," Parsons said, "so I gotta get my get back on Kyle for sure."
Through nine weeks, the two friends have transitioned seamlessly to the NFL. Pitts leads the Falcons in receiving yards (546) and is second among all rookies. Parsons leads the Cowboys solo tackles (38) and sacks (5.0), both of which are second among rookies.
As they line up on Sunday, the two friends and rivals, will look to earn bragging rights five years in the making.
"I think he knows that me and him is definitely going after each other," Parsons said with a smile. "… It's gone be a really good game, and I'm really excited to play him because I know how good he is."
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