Which single Penn State player meant to most to Penn State football history?

Jerademan

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If I had to pick just 1 player, I would say John Cappelletti as he is still our only Heisman Trophy winner and was an extremely likeable person who brought out our emotions during his Heisman acceptance speech over how the real hero was his brother Joey.

After Cappy, there are about 15 other players who were significant figures who helped mold PSU football into our memory banks. In no particular order, here is my list":

1. Mike Mauti - he and Michael Zordich helped Bill O'Brien save Penn State football after the Sandusky and NCAA penalty debacle.
2. Michael Robinson - sacrificed playing his preferred position for the good of the team and never complained playing terrifically at every position.
3. John Urshell - his 4.0 average after getting his PH.D in Mathematics from MIT says it all!
4. Saquon Barkley - Made PSU = RBU
5 Franco Harris - truly a legend at Penn State and a valiant supporter of Joe Paterno and everything good at Penn State.
6. Adam Taliefero - a hero and miraculous survivor of a terrible spinal injury.
7. DWill along with the other 5-star_____ put Penn State back into a higher valued recruiting level during a down time
8. Jack Ham - Founding father for making PSU = LBU, and great analyst and color commentator of PSU Football!
9 Lavar Arrington - Kept the LBU title intact!
10. Mike Reid - Penn State's "Piano man" and All-American (if not NFL HOFer)
11. Tamba Hali - what a story of a kid growing up in Africa and coming to America to become a football hero!
12. Todd Blackledge - makes us all proud Penn Stater's by his excellent college football analysis and support to Penn State
13. Lenny Moore - along with Wally Triplette helped break down color barriers at Penn State and became a NFL HOF player for the Baltimore Colts
14. Joe Paterno - he was not a PSU player, but no single person was more important for bringing class, honor with success and credibility to Penn State! He made us all proud though Sandusky tarnished his image to the outside world only!
 
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Obliviax

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Aug 21, 2001
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Good list. I have two exceptions. I don't think Taliefero is in the top 50. If you include Paterno, he'd have to be #1. But I agree, Mauti led the program through its darkest days. 1A would be the fans who never doubted, who never wavered, who showed up every Saturday and showed players/recruits/media that PSU wasn't nearly dead and would, in fact, thrive.

If you are going to put Coaches on the list, you also have to think that both BO'B and CJF would be in the top 15. While BO'B wasn't here long, he had some near-miraculous wins and retained most of his players when they could have gone. And CJF got the program, exception of last year, to top ten prominence.
 

PSUFBFAN

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May 29, 2001
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If I had to pick just 1 player, I would say John Cappelletti as he is still our only Heisman Trophy winner and was an extremely likeable person who brought out our emotions during his Heisman acceptance speech over how the real hero was his brother Joey.

After Cappy, there are about 15 other players who were significant figures who helped mold PSU football into our memory banks. In no particular order, here is my list":

1. Mike Mauti - he and Michael Zordich helped Bill O'Brien save Penn State football after the Sandusky and NCAA penalty debacle.
2. Michael Robinson - sacrificed playing his preferred position for the good of the team and never complained playing terrifically at every position.
3. John Urshell - his 4.0 average after getting his PH.D in Mathematics from MIT says it all!
4. Saquon Barkley - Made PSU = RBU
5 Franco Harris - truly a legend at Penn State and a valiant supporter of Joe Paterno and everything good at Penn State.
6. Adam Taliefero - a hero and miraculous survivor of a terrible spinal injury.
7. DWill along with the other 5-star_____ put Penn State back into a higher valued recruiting level during a down time
8. Jack Ham - Founding father for making PSU = LBU, and great analyst and color commentator of PSU Football!
9 Lavar Arrington - Kept the LBU title intact!
10. Mike Reid - Penn State's "Piano man" and All-American (if not NFL HOFer)
11. Tamba Hali - what a story of a kid growing up in Africa and coming to America to become a football hero!
12. Todd Blackledge - makes us all proud Penn Stater's by his excellent college football analysis and support to Penn State
13. Lenny Moore - along with Wally Triplette helped break down color barriers at Penn State and became a NFL HOF player for the Baltimore Colts
14. Joe Paterno - he was not a PSU player, but no single person was more important for bringing class, honor with success and credibility to Penn State! He made us all proud though Sandusky tarnished his image to the outside world only!
Michael Mauti and Christian Hackenberg. Not as much for what they did on the field, but what they did off the field that prevented PSU from going into a multi year tailspin from which the program would have never reached the heights of 2012 and 2016 and into the CJF era.
 

Midnighter2

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Jan 21, 2021
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I would say that it might have been Derrick Williams. Even though he was not the all-time greatest PSU player, when he committed he was the #1 recruit. The program seemed on the verge of irrelevance until he committed.

Can’t remember who committed first out of Justin King and Williams, but those guys were the first ‘big time’ commits the program saw since Arrington.
 

Petch

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Mar 28, 2012
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If I had to pick just 1 player, I would say John Cappelletti as he is still our only Heisman Trophy winner and was an extremely likeable person who brought out our emotions during his Heisman acceptance speech over how the real hero was his brother Joey.

After Cappy, there are about 15 other players who were significant figures who helped mold PSU football into our memory banks. In no particular order, here is my list":

1. Mike Mauti - he and Michael Zordich helped Bill O'Brien save Penn State football after the Sandusky and NCAA penalty debacle.
2. Michael Robinson - sacrificed playing his preferred position for the good of the team and never complained playing terrifically at every position.
3. John Urshell - his 4.0 average after getting his PH.D in Mathematics from MIT says it all!
4. Saquon Barkley - Made PSU = RBU
5 Franco Harris - truly a legend at Penn State and a valiant supporter of Joe Paterno and everything good at Penn State.
6. Adam Taliefero - a hero and miraculous survivor of a terrible spinal injury.
7. DWill along with the other 5-star_____ put Penn State back into a higher valued recruiting level during a down time
8. Jack Ham - Founding father for making PSU = LBU, and great analyst and color commentator of PSU Football!
9 Lavar Arrington - Kept the LBU title intact!
10. Mike Reid - Penn State's "Piano man" and All-American (if not NFL HOFer)
11. Tamba Hali - what a story of a kid growing up in Africa and coming to America to become a football hero!
12. Todd Blackledge - makes us all proud Penn Stater's by his excellent college football analysis and support to Penn State
13. Lenny Moore - along with Wally Triplette helped break down color barriers at Penn State and became a NFL HOF player for the Baltimore Colts
14. Joe Paterno - he was not a PSU player, but no single person was more important for bringing class, honor with success and credibility to Penn State! He made us all proud though Sandusky tarnished his image to the outside world only!
What...no Hefflefinger?
 

bdgan

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May 29, 2008
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If I had to pick just 1 player, I would say John Cappelletti as he is still our only Heisman Trophy winner and was an extremely likeable person who brought out our emotions during his Heisman acceptance speech over how the real hero was his brother Joey.

After Cappy, there are about 15 other players who were significant figures who helped mold PSU football into our memory banks. In no particular order, here is my list":

1. Mike Mauti - he and Michael Zordich helped Bill O'Brien save Penn State football after the Sandusky and NCAA penalty debacle.
2. Michael Robinson - sacrificed playing his preferred position for the good of the team and never complained playing terrifically at every position.
3. John Urshell - his 4.0 average after getting his PH.D in Mathematics from MIT says it all!
4. Saquon Barkley - Made PSU = RBU
5 Franco Harris - truly a legend at Penn State and a valiant supporter of Joe Paterno and everything good at Penn State.
6. Adam Taliefero - a hero and miraculous survivor of a terrible spinal injury.
7. DWill along with the other 5-star_____ put Penn State back into a higher valued recruiting level during a down time
8. Jack Ham - Founding father for making PSU = LBU, and great analyst and color commentator of PSU Football!
9 Lavar Arrington - Kept the LBU title intact!
10. Mike Reid - Penn State's "Piano man" and All-American (if not NFL HOFer)
11. Tamba Hali - what a story of a kid growing up in Africa and coming to America to become a football hero!
12. Todd Blackledge - makes us all proud Penn Stater's by his excellent college football analysis and support to Penn State
13. Lenny Moore - along with Wally Triplette helped break down color barriers at Penn State and became a NFL HOF player for the Baltimore Colts
14. Joe Paterno - he was not a PSU player, but no single person was more important for bringing class, honor with success and credibility to Penn State! He made us all proud though Sandusky tarnished his image to the outside world only!
My vote goes to the key players in our first national championship: Blackledge, Warner, Jackson, Radecic, Robinson

Early days: Lenny Moore, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, Cappy

Brought us back in 2005: MRob, Brown, Hali, Pos, Alford

All time most important person in PSU football history: Paterno. No contest.
 

Connorpozlee

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Aug 29, 2013
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If I had to pick just 1 player, I would say John Cappelletti as he is still our only Heisman Trophy winner and was an extremely likeable person who brought out our emotions during his Heisman acceptance speech over how the real hero was his brother Joey.

After Cappy, there are about 15 other players who were significant figures who helped mold PSU football into our memory banks. In no particular order, here is my list":

1. Mike Mauti - he and Michael Zordich helped Bill O'Brien save Penn State football after the Sandusky and NCAA penalty debacle.
2. Michael Robinson - sacrificed playing his preferred position for the good of the team and never complained playing terrifically at every position.
3. John Urshell - his 4.0 average after getting his PH.D in Mathematics from MIT says it all!
4. Saquon Barkley - Made PSU = RBU
5 Franco Harris - truly a legend at Penn State and a valiant supporter of Joe Paterno and everything good at Penn State.
6. Adam Taliefero - a hero and miraculous survivor of a terrible spinal injury.
7. DWill along with the other 5-star_____ put Penn State back into a higher valued recruiting level during a down time
8. Jack Ham - Founding father for making PSU = LBU, and great analyst and color commentator of PSU Football!
9 Lavar Arrington - Kept the LBU title intact!
10. Mike Reid - Penn State's "Piano man" and All-American (if not NFL HOFer)
11. Tamba Hali - what a story of a kid growing up in Africa and coming to America to become a football hero!
12. Todd Blackledge - makes us all proud Penn Stater's by his excellent college football analysis and support to Penn State
13. Lenny Moore - along with Wally Triplette helped break down color barriers at Penn State and became a NFL HOF player for the Baltimore Colts
14. Joe Paterno - he was not a PSU player, but no single person was more important for bringing class, honor with success and credibility to Penn State! He made us all proud though Sandusky tarnished his image to the outside world only!
I mean, if you’re going to list Joe Paterno, how the hell can you put him at #14?
 

marshall23

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May 23, 2013
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As far as most recent, Micah Parsons. His leaving took the soul out of last year's team.
There are probably 100 players that meant more to PSU Football than Micah.
He chose the fast track to the NFL.....I don't blame him.....he's a multi millionaire. But I can't see where he did a lot for PSU Football. He was very very good for one year.
 

MacNit07

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Aug 5, 2017
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My vote goes to the key players in our first national championship: Blackledge, Warner, Jackson, Radecic, Robinson

Early days: Lenny Moore, Franco Harris, Jack Ham, Cappy

Brought us back in 2005: MRob, Brown, Hali, Pos, Alford

All time most important person in PSU football history: Paterno. No contest.
Most important person in University history = Paterno.
 

Jerademan

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Oct 7, 2019
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I mean, if you’re going to list Joe Paterno, how the hell can you put him at #14?
I understand your point, but I said that Cappy was my choice and then I said after that in no particular order are those other players. Then, after writing all that, I thought to myself that the most impactful person to Penn State football was Joe Paterno. I should have just made him #1 and reclassified my list qualifications, but I had already spent so much time writing that :)!
 

lurkerlion

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Mike Reid led PSU into the modern era. Sort of the Joe Greene of our program.

Poz changed the defense from the moment he started playing. Other LBs may have been better but Poz saved us from years of mediocre defenses.

Mauti makes my list simply by the leadership he exhibited. Unfortunately injuries limited him as a player.

Most of the other greats were the difference between very good and great teams, not bad to good or great. Warner and Saquon/Trace are close to having such an impact.
 

Jerademan

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There are probably 100 players that meant more to PSU Football than Micah.
He chose the fast track to the NFL.....I don't blame him.....he's a multi millionaire. But I can't see where he did a lot for PSU Football. He was very very good for one year.
I agree, and he also wasn't a guy that we can say....now there was a player who really epitomizes what a Penn State flag carrier should look like. He was a highly talented kid who actually wanted to go to Ohio State after dumping us, but he got Urban Meyers in trouble for showing up on camera on ESPN Game Day in Columbus. He then was basically told that OSU won't accept his commitment after that and came back to Penn State after soaking up as much attention by any schools willing to talk to him in the interim!
 

bvillebaron

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Good list. I have two exceptions. I don't think Taliefero is in the top 50. If you include Paterno, he'd have to be #1. But I agree, Mauti led the program through its darkest days. 1A would be the fans who never doubted, who never wavered, who showed up every Saturday and showed players/recruits/media that PSU wasn't nearly dead and would, in fact, thrive.

If you are going to put Coaches on the list, you also have to think that both BO'B and CJF would be in the top 15. While BO'B wasn't here long, he had some near-miraculous wins and retained most of his players when they could have gone. And CJF got the program, exception of last year, to top ten prominence.
BOB retained most of his players in large part because of Mike Mauti and Mike Zordich. If you recall, BOB wanted to issue a you or with us or out of here deadline reasonably soon after the sanctions were announced but the two Mikes talked him out of it. Any way, since the post was about the most influential player, I vote for Capps too.
 

Connorpozlee

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I understand your point, but I said that Cappy was my choice and then I said after that in no particular order are those other players. Then, after writing all that, I thought to myself that the most impactful person to Penn State football was Joe Paterno. I should have just made him #1 and reclassified my list qualifications, but I had already spent so much time writing that :)!
Fantastic! Well explained.
 
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LionsandBear

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IMO there is no single player that definitively stands alone. Rather we've have players through different eras which have made this the program that it is today.

Triplette symbolizes our motto WE ARE
Moore was our brightest star in the NFL
Cappy gave us a Heisman
Lavar cemented us as LBU
MRob got us out of the Dark Years
Mauti/Zordich got us through the Sanctions
Barkley gave us a modern icon
 
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wolve1972

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Actually if we are talking Penn State contribution, Lydell Mitchell was far superior to Franco.
Yeah, I'm probably letting Franco's NFL career enter into my decision.

But - without a doubt - my 2 favorite CF players of all-time are John Cappelletti and Archie Griffin and not because both won Heisman trophies but the way they handled themselves off the field. Both are class acts. You never hear open-minded people slam either.
 

1PSUfootball1

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I like Mauti as a pick, but Christian Hackenberg sticking to his commitment held things together I think much more than people give him credit. If he de commits it spirals out of control and I’m not sure we come out as well as we did. He never became what we wanted him to be but I really think he helped every bit as much as Mauti and Zodich to hold it together.
 

Mufasa94

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Jan 9, 2009
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Most of the other greats were the difference between very good and great teams, not bad to good or great.
This statement describes who I would consider as the candidate(s) for the OP’s title. Not sure you can tie it down to a single player, as a few could qualify based on whatever factor one holds most important.

Should it be:
Reid/Onkontz for leading the program to heights/success not seen by those alive?
Cappelletti for the storybook ‘73 season that had Hollywood retell?
Warner for helping elevate the program from overlooked regional team to national spotlight?
Conlan for his years that culminated in the most watched and arguably hyped game ever?
 

Mufasa94

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I must admit, I am surprised that no one has mentioned Mike McQueary.
Ohhh....wasn’t thinking negatively.

I guess if one were to go in that direction, there’s probably another name that could be suggested.