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

Jerademan

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Wow, no Trace McSorley? No business being NFL QB at his size but that kid has guts like no player ever at PSU. OSU WIN, BT champtionship, clutch IA TD, super Fiesta performance..even the gut wrenching losses to OSU, he left it all on the field. He made PSU fun to watch and brought swagger back to program.
I agree that Trace McSorley somehow needs to be on that list somewhere as he did bring excitement to every play as we didn't quite know what to expect. That is saying a lot as some of us long-term PSU fans would tell you that our offenses (at least under Joe Paterno) were pretty predictable. We used to run the same basic plays in certain situations, but we were overall successful because the defenses we played against were over powered by our skill players. Trace was a master of turning a broken play or a called play that was destined for failure into an innovative work of art at times. If not for some untimely INTs in a few key games, he'd have been maybe our best QB ever. He did leave his heart and soul on the field!
 

Nittany Ziggy

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William T. “Mother” Dunn
William Thomas "Mother" Dunn (May 13, 1881 in Youngstown, Ohio – November 17, 1962 on Maui) was a collegiate American football player, who played linebacker and center for Penn State University. Dunn captained the 1906 Penn State Nittany Lions football team and that year became the first player outside of the Ivy Leagueto be selected as an All-American by Walter Camp. He was also the first great linebacker in the history of the school that would eventually be nicknamed "Linebacker U" for its traditional excellence at the position.

William Dunn is also featured on the Official 2011 Nittany Lion Football Schedule Poster as part of the celebration of 125 years of Penn State Football.
 
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GregPSU

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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!
This argument will never end for how can you pick a player that had the most impact on the program? Many great players but how to judge impact on program??? Bottom line is Rip Engle got it started and he had the foresight to hire Paterno. Then JoePa took over and very quickly put PSU in the national title spotlight. There's your best impact to the program!
 
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SLion

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I agree that Trace McSorley somehow needs to be on that list somewhere as he did bring excitement to every play as we didn't quite know what to expect. That is saying a lot as some of us long-term PSU fans would tell you that our offenses (at least under Joe Paterno) were pretty predictable. We used to run the same basic plays in certain situations, but we were overall successful because the defenses we played against were over powered by our skill players. Trace was a master of turning a broken play or a called play that was destined for failure into an innovative work of art at times. If not for some untimely INTs in a few key games, he'd have been maybe our best QB ever. He did leave his heart and soul on the field!

Certainly there were untimely INTs. The Rose bowl ending hurt bad but I attribute alot of that to Franklin. We live and die on big play. Trace tried to make it happen. We don't win BT without him chucking the ball downfield so cuts both ways. Still, coming off scandal, sanctions and the complete deterioration of Hackenberg's play, I put Trace up there simply because he got the program competing at top level not seen in a decade. Best playmaker to ever play at QB and a true leader.
 
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Waltwam

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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 would have included Ralph Baker.
 

Wallace Breen

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Trace was gutty and tough but at the end of the day, he doesn't make the list. We all saw what happened to Trace's individual play after Barkley, Godwin and Gesicki hung up their jerseys, injury played a part but we talking <5%. Truth be told, he was a very average dual threat QB. Not bad. Not good. I am grateful he is a Penn Stater but his impact was pretty minimal.
 
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Option Bob

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Maybe Darrin Roberts??
Interesting that you bring up the name Darrin Roberts. I recall his receiving lavish praise running the Wishbone for the scout team prior to the Orange Bowl game vs Oklahoma.

Several defensive players said that Roberts was outstanding in imitating OU's Hollieway. Shane Conlan was especially effusive in crediting Roberts with the success of the defense that held OU's QB to all of 1 yard rushing in the game.

As my screen name implies, I still have an affinity for the option offense, and I believed then (Roberts was signed in 1985) that Penn State could have had a great Wishbone attack with Roberts at QB and a RB cadre of DJ Dozier, Blair Thomas, Steve Smith, Tim Manoa, Sean Redman, Odell Wilson, and Chris Thorpe.

Of course, Joe showed how wrong I was by going undefeated and winning the championship with John Shaffer.
 
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TheGLOV

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Interesting that you bring up the name Darrin Roberts. I recall his receiving lavish praise running the Wishbone for the scout team prior to the Orange Bowl game vs Oklahoma.

Several defensive players said that Roberts was outstanding in imitating OU's Hollieway. Shane Conlan was especially effusive in crediting Roberts with the success of the defense that held OU's QB to all of 1 yard rushing in the game.

As my screen name implies, I still have an affinity for the option offense, and I believed then (Roberts was signed in 1985) that Penn State could have had a great Wishbone attack with Roberts at QB and a RB cadre of DJ Dozier, Blair Thomas, Steve Smith, Tim Manoa, Sean Redman, Odell Wilson, and Chris Thorpe.

Of course, Joe showed how wrong I was by going undefeated and winning the championship with John Shaffer.

But old Joe also LOST to an Oklahoma team that ran the option for a National Championship, no?

Yes, I remember reading those articles as well.
 

walleye38

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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!
Franco Harris. His support of Joe and Penn State. Also Kerry Collins, Bobby Ingram.. But the most important of all Was Joe Paterno and the Paterno Family.
 
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Jerry

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Franco Harris. His support of Joe and Penn State. Also Kerry Collins, Bobby Ingram.. But the most important of all Was Joe Paterno and the Paterno Family.

Obviously it's Paterno if coaches are included for consideration. However, among players, so many great names to choose from...but I have to put in a plug for Lenny Moore.

Great collegiate running back. Played defense as well and was very good there too. Great NFL career. High-character guy and class act all the way. Major cultural impact as a star black player in an era when racial discrimination was actually a real thing. I think both Joe and Rip Engle at one time or another called him the best and most versatile back they'd seen. No matter how you look at it, he was a hugely important player in Penn State football history.
 
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jack66

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

If Joe were alive today he would say the same thing.

In fact, he has said something similar. In the book 'Football My Way' he credited Mike with taking team leadership and becoming Joe's right-hand man. This allowed Joe to recover from a rocky start ... part of the team in 1966/67 rebelled against Joe's rules/discipline ... then go on a non-losing run by coaching 'his way'. The rest is history.

In the post-Paterno years, Mauli and Zordich have to be recognized.
 

Texas Lion

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Trace McSorley.....Penn state doesn't hit on big time QB's very much and the fact that this guy came from nowhere allowed the 16-18 runs to happen. If he flopped we may never have gotten out of the sanction era and what we see would look a lot different.
 

Waltwam

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Not sure I subscribe to that, because every phase (PSU football, especially under the Paterno era) was necessary building blocks & subject to the era they played in, etc... But if you go by that definition, I’d go with ‘Curt Warner’, since he was clearly the best player on the first National Championship team. I was a student from 1976-1980 and loved the 1978 team, but they came up short against Alabama and Joe needed to make changes to address the issues that cost him the Sugar Bowl, in order to win the National titles in the 80’s. (Speed, more balanced passing attack, etc.)
They would have beaten Alabama, just as they were, with a little more innovative play calling!
 
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TheBigUglies

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I don't think we can pick one single player that means the most to PSU Football history. PSU Football is great because the culmination of all the players throughout time in the program. Traditions and greatness don't happen overnight they are built and passed down thru the years. Yes, there were great players who have had outstanding careers at PSU and helped us win championships, bowl games etc to gain national prominance. The 2 most meaningful times in PSU history, to me(80's thru modern day) were getting out of the "Dark" years and back to national prominence and I believe that is due to the talent of Derrick Williams and Justin King and that group(MRob, Pos, Hunt, Butler, Norwood, Paxson, Hali, Levi Brown, etc). The second meaningful time obviously was the group that stayed thru the sanctions, Mauti, Zordich, McGloin, Hack and Breneman staying committed, ARob, Jesse James, Ficken,Zettel, Baublitz
 

PSUTENN1

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In my opinion there’s just too many to list. All those guys who played for Joe who maybe didn’t play in the NFL but became great husbands, fathers and citizens. Joe Pa built something very special at Penn State.


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!
 

GulfCoastLion

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They would have beaten Alabama, just as they were, with a little more innovative play calling!
Absolutely and Joe knew it as well. It bothered him immensely and he even considered quitting after that season (per his own admissions), but instead it motivated him to open up the playbook and get more creative, culminating in his first official national championship just 3 years later, with the first team to pass for slightly more yardage than it ran for in NCAA DIV 1 while winning the title (if I’m not mistaken)

It was a very balanced offense and Joe was ahead of the curve as the 80’s rolled in.
 
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Stargellfan

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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!
Good list, but you mention 14 players and coaches and don't include Shane Conlan! I am not surprised because I really think he is one of the most overlooked players when discussing historically great players. In my mind, if you are just taking into account what they did in college, Shane Conlan is the greatest Penn State Linebacker. I am sure most people remember him in the Fiesta Bowl; but go to YouTube and watch him in the 1986 Orange Bowl. That might have been the single greatest performance by a PSU defender that I have ever seen. I get that your list obviously factors in other things, but in my mind Shane Conlan is on the Mt. Rushmore of Penn State legends.
 

psuguy43

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Sep 28, 2002
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Well, based on the current climate on this board on this day, June 22, 2021, I would say Carl Nassib.
Maybe if the question was "Which PSU player meant the most to the NFL" you would have an argument. Franco Harris catching the Immaculate Reception would be right up there as well.
 

PA college fan

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Agree with Stargellfan that Shane Conlan is who I think of as a single player! He epitomized Linebacker U, and he just came in as blue collar as possible and made play after play and with others got us another National Championship!! One of my all time favorites and helped put Joe over the top! He sustained a brand that continues, and was brought up again by Poz and Sean Lee among others. Michah could have been in this group talent wise, but he wasn't as loyal as the others--may be sign of time forward, where the players try to get the most out of Penn State rather than giving all they got for Dear Old State. Saquon is clearly up at the top also, especially for how he carries himself off the field in addition to being a GOAT.
 

Evenattheturn

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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 am not a PSU person-but,let me go back and tell you that Jesse Arnelle, Richie Lucas(PSU number one all time QB-not even debatable) and Dave Robinson-have to be included. Young folks look at statistics. If statistics mattered then Otto Graham,John Unitas,etc would not be good QBs by todays standards.Football has changed a lot since these guys played-but they were great. The above mentioned guys played before tailgating and motor homes-when PSU averaged 25,000 fans-so most of you never heard of them.
 

mjrino

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Shane Conlan…leader of a D that played in back to back national championship games.

Plus I was at a party with him back in the day. I had a “few too many” and was being a wise a$& and he was super cool to me. He probably should have pummeled me.

He’s on my Mt Rushmore.
 
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LionJim

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Shane Conlan…leader of a D that played in back to back national championship games.

Plus I was at a party with him back in the day. I had a “few too many” and was being a wise a$& and he was super cool to me. He probably should have pummeled me.

He’s on my Mt Rushmore.
You always learn from the great ones. Good story; I appreciate the share. Way to keep the thread going.
 
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mjrino

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You always learn from the great ones. Good story; I appreciate the share. Way to keep the thread going.
To add to the story it was during the summer. I was making fun of Conlan’s “spindly calves.” If he would have punched me my friends would have just looked at me, said “you deserved that”, kept drinking their beers and left me on the ground.

Besides all of that..dude was the best LB PSU ever had.

Top 3 LBs
1. Conlan
2. Ham
3. Arrington
 
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Stargellfan

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To add to the story it was during the summer. I was making fun of Conlan’s “spindly calves.” If he would have punched me my friends would have just looked at me, said “you deserved that”, kept drinking their beers and left me on the ground.

Besides all of that..dude was the best LB PSU ever had.

Top 3 LBs
1. Conlan
2. Ham
3. Arrington
Believe it or not, until recently, I may have underrated LaVar Arrington a bit. He was a great player, but the way the team collapsed down the stretch of the 1999 season soured me a bit. I have reevaluated that. I would still rank Poz above him, but it is very close.
 
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