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Cowboys Rookie Crafts Powerful New Football-As-Chess Analogy

OXNARD, CA - AUGUST 03: Linebacker Micah Parsons #11 of the Dallas Cowboys participates in drills during training camp at River Ridge Complex on August 3, 2021 in Oxnard, California. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Football, as many analysts will remind you, is like chess. Most of the time, that analogy is deployed in service of illustrating how intricate and complicated a football play is, though football is also like chess in another more basic sense: All 22 players line up across from each other and are allowed to move only in specific ways. Dallas Cowboys first-rounder Micah Parsons is well aware of this, and as such, does not want to be one of those minor pieces that only gets to move along one axis:

You want to be kind of like a queen on the [chess] board. You don’t ever want to be a rook, where you can only go straight, or you can only go sideways. You want to be able to go diagonal, and I think that’s what makes the queen so strong. And I just kind of want to be the queen of linebackers… but a king, in a way.

Dallas Cowboys

It’s simple: Parsons wants to be the king of queens. He does not want to be limited to moving in tiny increments (linemen, pawns), straight lines (deep-threat receivers, rooks), or one square at a time (Tom Brady). Any linebacker can go out there and try to play like the queen, but only Parsons has the elite mindset necessary to even consider being a queen that is also a king. They should just give him the defensive rookie of the year award now.

Parsons can take a cue from his own teammate Amari Cooper, known chess aficionado and fellow football-as-chess movement considerer. Where a linebacker wants to be a queen and be able to cover as much space as possible, a receiver’s threat isn’t defined so much by their freedom of movement as their shiftiness. It’s harmonious then that Cooper’s favorite piece is the knight, because, as he says, “You can’t see them coming in certain instances.” Former Cowboy and current chess partner Chidobe Awuzie agreed. “His release, his game, he lulls you to sleep, his moves, his suddenness, all that stuff, it’s very comparable,” he told ESPN last year.

The two chess minds met earlier this summer, and the veteran schooled the rookie.

But Parsons was undeterred. Two days later, he sprung a trap on Cooper and used the superior movement ability of his queen to put Cooper in checkmate.

The logical next step in a chess player’s evolution after learning how to move all the pieces is studying various openings. Here’s one Parsons should learn to master, since he’s playing for the Cowboys.