Penn State Football All Time Team – Part 5

In Penn State All Time Team, Penn State Football on January 14, 2012 at 11:17 am

PART 5– Now that the Joe Paterno era of Penn State football has officially ended I wanted to have some fun and come up with my All Time Joe Paterno Penn State football team. There was actually a lot of thought that went in to this. I did a good bit of statistical research, used my long memory of Penn State football games and seasons gone bye and of course a lot of my opinion. I also tried to base my picks on their Penn State career and not their NFL career which leaves a few NFL Hall of Famers off the 1st Team. Please feel free to leave your comments. All positions can easily be disputed since there have been many great players to come through Happy Valley. I’ve even taken the liberty to add a few extra players because I couldn’t split the hair on who to pick. It was tough enough as it was. Part 1, I will pick the Offensive Line (5) and TE (1). Part 2, I will pick the WR (3) and QB (1). Part 3 I will pick the RB (3) and it was tough. Part 4 the DL (4), and DB’s (4) and Part 5 I will pick the LB’s (4), it was impossible and I may still change my mind at the last second, the kicker (1) and punter (1).  I’ve added a 2nd Team and an Honorable Mention list.

Although selecting the Running Backs was very difficult selecting the Linebackers was nearly impossible. I’m sure you will have comments and your own opinions. I’d take the 2nd Team and put it against the 1st Team and still have a great group.

Also, I have decided to have an additional article to cover the Kickers and Punters. That wasn’t as easy as I thought so I’m doing to separately. It also won’t take away from this list of Linebackers.


I have selected 4 LINEBACKERS on my 1st Team.

Dennis Onkotz: 2 Time 1st Team All American (’68 & ‘69), both teams were undefeated.  2nd Team All America (’67). Dennis was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Onkotz was the original All American of what would become ”Linebacker U” under Joe Paterno.  Dennis ranks #6 on the All Time Career Tackles list with 287. This was accomplished in 3 seasons since freshman were not eligible at that time. An outstanding athlete Dennis was also the teams punt returner, returning 47 punts for an average return of 13.2 yards and 2 TD’s. He had one return for 71 yards that was not a TD. Dennis was a 3rd round draft pick of the New York Jets but his career was cut short by an injury.

Greg Buttle – 1st Team All American (’75). Arguably the best LB in PSU history. Buttle was a tackling machine. He was the all time tackles leader for over 30 years before he was passed by Paul Posluszny in 2006. He only played 3 seasons due to freshman being ineligible at the time. He holds the PSU records for tackles in a season with 165 and solo tackles in a season with 86. Buttle had individual games throughout his career with 24, 23 and 19 tackles. In 2001 he was awarded the Silver Anniversary Butkus Award for the 1975 season. Greg was a 3rd round draft pick of the New York Jets. He played in the NFL from 1976-1984.

Shane Conlan – 2 Time 1st Team All American (’85 & ’86). The leader of the 1986 defense considered one of the greatest of all time not allowing any opponents to score more than 19 points. Shane was the MVP of the 1987 National Championship Fiesta Bowl win over Miami. Conlan ranks #8th on the All Time tackles list with 274. He also ranks #7 in career tackles for loss. Conlan was selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft by the Buffalo Bills. He was selected NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. He played in 3 Pro Bowls. He played in the NFL from 1897-1995. 

LaVar Arrington – 2 Time 1st Team All American (’98 & ’99). In his junior season, his last season, he won the Bednarik, Butkus and Lambert Awards. Possibly the finest athlete to ever play on the defensive side of the ball at PSU. LaVar is not in the Top 10 in all time tackles in a career or in a season. He does rank #8 in career QB sacks and #8 in career tackles for loss. LaVar was the 2nd pick in the NFL draft by the Washington Redskins. He and Courtney Brown are the only teammates ever selected as the top 2 picks in the same draft. He played in 3 Pro Bowls. LaVar played in the NFL from 2000-2006.


Dan Connor – 2 Time All American (’06 & ’07). The All time Career Leader in tackles with 419 passing his teammate Paul Posluszney. He ranks 2nd in tackles in a season to Buttle with 145. His 4 year tackles totals were 85, 76, 113 & 145. Connor won the 2007 Bednarik Award. He had 18 tackles in one game against Ohio State in 2007. Dan was a 3rd round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers in 2008. He is still playing in the NFL.

Paul Posluszny – 2 Time All American (’05 & ’06).  He was only the 2nd 2 time winner of the Bednarik Award. He won the Butkus Award as well in 2005. Poz broke Greg Buttles 30 year record to become the all time career tackles leader in 2006 which was broken by teammate Dan Connor the next season. He’s the only Penn State linebacker to ever record 100 tackles in three consecutive seasons (2004-2006). His career consistency as a linebacker is second to none. His yearly tackles were 36, 104, 136 and 136. He recorded 22 tackles against Northwestern in 2005. Poz was a 2nd round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills. He is still playing in the NFL.

Jack Ham – 1st Team All American (’70). Elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. He teamed with Dennis Onkotz to lay the foundation for the legacy that would go on to become “ Linebacker U”. Ham was a three year starter who ranks #14 on the all time career tackles list. He only played 3 years since freshman were not eligible at that time. He is tied with Andre Collins for both Blocked Punts in a season with 3 and Most Blocked Punts in a career with 4. Jack was selected in the 1st round of the NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played in 8 Pro Bowls and won 4 Super Bowls. He was selected to the NFL 75th Anniversary Team the 1990 All Decade Team and the Steelers All Time Team. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Andre Collins – 1st team All American (’89). Andre ranks #10 on the All Time Career Tackles List with 257. He is tied with Jack Ham for both Blocked Punts in a season with 3 and Most Blocked Punts in a career with 4. Collins career consisted of 2 seasons in which he played very little and 2 seasons that he was spectacular. He had 110 tackles as a junior and 130 tackles as a senior. He was a 2nd round draft pick of the Washington Redskins. He played in the NFL from 1990-1999.

 Honorable Mention:

Sean Lee, John Skorupan, Brandon Short, Jim Kates, Pete Giftopoulos, Brian Gelzheiser, Trey Bauer, Jim Nelson, Mark D‘Onofrio, Gary Gray, Ed O’Neil, Kurt Allerman, Lance Mehl, Chet Parlavecchio, Scott Radecic, Gerald Filardi, Navarro Bowman, Josh Hull, Charlie Zapiac, Don Graham, Mac Morrison, Jim Rosecrans, Trey Bauer, Brian Chizmar, John Ebersole, Phil Yaboah-Kodie, Jim Laslavic, Doug Allen, Ron Crosby, Rich Milot, Keith Goganious, Rich McKenzie, Reggie Givins, Josh Hull, Tim Shaw

There it is!!! How do you have a 1st Team that doesn’t include the top 2 tacklers of all time and an NFL Hall of Famer? I’m not sure either but that’s the way it worked out. The first two teams consist of 13 seasons of 1st Team All Americans and another 5 seasons on the Honorable Mention list. The Honorable Mention list is long due to so many great players that have been part of the “Linebacker U” legacy. What a tremendous group of players!!!

  1. This is a very interesting post and doesnt include Joe Pa name in it. Well done. How is it that Jack Ham isnt the number one linebacker from PSU of all time? The newest group I think out performed Arrington during there college careers as well.

    • Ham was a great player but just like with the Steelers he just went about his business with great results. He was tough to leave off but I think the others deserve it. As far as Arrington, he was the show but the fact that he was the #2 player taken in the NFL draft showed how good he really was. He also only played 3 years or his stats would’ve been up with the leaders. I can’t argue about Connor, Poz, Lee, Bowman, Hull, Shaw in recent years. Their stats are incredible but I had to draw the line somewhere. If I did this again next week I might change my mind. Also, I think tremendous credit for the current group has to go to LB Coach Ron Vanderlinden, DL Coach Larry Johnson and DC Tom Bradley that have produced great defenses full of All Americans and All Big 10 players over the last 10-15 years.

  2. This is awesome stuff. Tough crowd at LB!

    • You could easily match the 2nd team against the 1st team and also pull 4 All Americans out of the Honorable Mention List and still be awesome. It was tough to pick the older players over the newer onees when all of the new players at every position have better stats. The game has really changed.

  3. This list shows that when it comes to linebackers, Penn State has no equal. If you watch some Jets games from the early 1980s when they made some championship runs, there were times when the three linebackers (Mehl, Buttle and Crosby) on the field were all Penn State alums. How often have you seen that during an NFL game?

  4. JOHN LOTT—SOUTH PARK—–Jack Ham was a SECOND round pick in 1971. The 1st round pick was Frank Lewis from Grambling University.

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