Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Top Ten All-Time Penn State Football Players

*Posted October 10, 2008*

Penn State is pretty pure this year, third in polls and will probably be favored in the rest of their games, including at Ohio State. If they win out, they will play for the national championship. Alabama is pretty solid, but Texas, as well as the rest of the Big 12, are complete frauds. So in honor of my alma mater, a special shout-out to Penn State’s best players in their storied history.

10. Derrick Williams

Played at PSU: 2005-present

Yrs as All-American: None

NFL: None

-Although being the unanimous number one recruit coming out of high school in the fall of 2004, some have called Williams a bust at Penn State. In a sense he has, zero all-Americans, nowhere near the heisman voting, and no significant statistical production. But Williams has been a centerpiece of the transformation of Penn State. The team had to go through 3-4 losing seasons to change to a spread offense from the former “three yards and a cloud of dust” attack of years past. Today, Williams is one of the top receivers on the team, gets 4-5 carries a game, is involved in numerous trick plays, and is the spark plug for special teams. If you had to pick one player who was the catalyst for getting Penn State out of the rut of losing seasons, it has to be Derrick Williams.


9. Jeff Hartings

Played at PSU: (1992-1995)

Yrs as All-American: 1994, 1995

NFL: Detroit Lions (1996-2000) and Pittsburgh Steelers (2001-2006)

-The centerpiece of the offensive line at Penn State in the mid-nineties. Pretty much the anchor of the team that went undefeated in 1994 that finished number two in both polls. Gets bonus points for being a Steeler. Played guard at both Penn State and Lions but moved to center when he signed with Pittsburgh. Side note - him and his wife have seven kids.

8. Larry Johnson

Played at PSU: (1999-2002)

Yrs as All-American: 2002

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs (2003-present)

-The one bright spot in the string of recent losing seasons was the 2002 team that won 9 games behind the running game of Larry Johnson. Johnson platooned at running back at Penn State during his first three years, but exploded when the job became his. He rushed for over 2,000 yards that year and finished third in the heisman voting. His 8.02 yards per carry in 2002 is a college football record.

7. Kerry Collins

Played at PSU: (1991-1994)

Yrs as All-American: 1994

NFL: Carolina Panthers (1995-1998), New Orleans Saints (1998), New York Giants (1999-2003), Oakland Raiders (2004-2005), Tennessee Titans (2006-present)

-The leader of the 1994 undefeated team that many have called one of the better offenses in the history of college football. He was invited to New York for the heisman ceremonies and finished either fourth or fifth. Collins held many Penn State passing records until the recent trend to a more pass-happy attack. Rumor also has it that Collins took part in the party scene at Penn State which carried over to the NFL with his much publicized problems with alcohol.

6. Jack Ham

Played at PSU: (1967-1970)

Yrs as All-American: 1970

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers (1971-1982)

-The NFL hall of famer made his mark as a football player with Penn State in the late sixties. He started three years and the Nittany Lions went 29-3 that included two undefeated seasons. Ham is arguably the first in a string of all-American linebackers that makes people call Penn State “linebacker U.” He currently calls Penn State games and did, don’t know if he still does, Steeler pre-game analysis on the radio. Perhaps the perfect football player, an all-American Nittany Lion and a Hall of Fame Steeler.

5. Ki-Jana Carter

Played at PSU: (1992-1994)

Yrs as All-American: 1994

NFL: Cincinnati Bengals (1995-1999), Washington Redskins (2001), Green Bay Packers (2002), New Orleans Saints (2003-2004)

-If Hartings was the anchor and Collins was the leader, then Ki-Jana Carter was arguably the best player on that great '94 team. Finished second in the heisman voting that year and had the signature play of the entire season with a 83 yard touchdown run on the first offensive play of the Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks. As good as his college career was, his NFL career was regrettfully stained with injuries. He was the number one overall pick of the Bengals in 1995 and is considered one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history.

4. Shane Conlan

Played at PSU: (1983-1986)

Yrs as All-American: 1985, 1986

NFL: Buffalo Bills (1987-1992), LA/St. Louis Rams (1993-1995)

-I have had three players from the great 1994 team, and Conlan is the first and only player on this list from Penn State’s last National Championship in 1986. Penn State defeated Miami in that year’s Fiesta Bowl. Miami were the heavy favorites with Vinny Testaverde, Michael Irvin, and Jimmy Johnson as the head coach. Penn State had a bunch of no-names, but Conlan was arguably their most valuable player. In that game he had eight tackles and two interceptions on top of his all-american season. He followed his success at Happy Valley with a successful NFL career.

3. Curt Warner

Played at PSU: (1979-1982)

Yrs as All-American: 1981, 1982

NFL: Seattle Seahawks (1983-1989), LA Rams (1990)

-If Conlan led the 1986 championship team, then you can say that Curt Warner, much cooler than the Kurt Warner of the Arizona Cardinals, led the 1982 championship team. Quarterback Todd Blackledge gets a lot of credit because he is now a tv announcer, but the two-time all-American Warner was a better player. Like many Penn State players, Warner had a fairly successful NFL career.

2. LaVar Arrington

Played at PSU: (1997-1999)

Yrs as All-American: 1998, 1999

NFL: Washington Redskins (2000-2005), New York Giants (2006)

-I went to Penn State during a reign of good linebackers. Paul Posluszny, Dan Connor, and Sean Lee were and are fairly good, but they still cannot compare at all to the greatness that was LaVar Arrington during the late nineties. Just think of Ray Lewis in his heyday with the Ravens or Lawrence Taylor in the eighties with the Giants, those are the only comparisons I can think of. After leaving Penn State early, he had a couple of good years with the Redskins but injuries cut his career short. Rumor had it that he was close to buying the old Sports Bar and Café in State College, but I guess the deal never materialized.


1. John Cappelletti

Played at PSU: (1970-1973)

Yrs as All-America: 1973

NFL: LA Rams (1974-1978) and San Diego Chargers (1980-1983)

-The only Nittany Lion to win the Heisman Trophy. Cappelletti was the poster child and most recognizable player in Penn State’s first wave of success under coach Joe Paterno in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Paterno said that he was the best football player that he had ever coached. The 1973 team went undefeated. Cappelletti is also known for the tv movie called Something for Joey that chronicles Cappelletti’s relationship with his brother Joey who died of leukemia. Penn State hired a virtually unknown assistant coach in 1966 with Joe Paterno. In less than ten years, he had three undefeated seasons and a heisman trophy winner. That winner, John Cappelletti, is arguably the greatest player in the history of Penn State football.

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