Ah, the 1990s...the decade that saw the Nittany Lions join the Big Ten Conference, the beginning of the "dark years", and, most importantly, the most prolific offense in college football history*.
Who, of those great teams, to include on the Nittany Mountain for the 1990s? This was an incredibly tough one for me, because there were so many amazing players to pass through Beaver Stadium in this decade (see list, below). I ended up picking players from two of the decade's most talented teams, 1994 and 1999, because they represented, in this humble blogger's opinion, some of the best offensive (1994) and defensive (1999) units of the decade.
*Yes, this is subjective. Yes, I'm biased. No, I'm not going to back up this hyperbole with facts. But it's probably true, anyway.
|Nittany Mountain: The Decades|
|Pre-1960s (Devon) - 6.25.12|
|The 1960s (BScaff) - 7.2.12|
|The 1970s (Mike) - 7.9.12|
|The 1980s (Galen) - 7.16.12|
|The 1990s (Cari) - 7.23.12|
|The 2000s (Jeff) - 7.30.12|
Just missed the cut:
TE Kyle Brady
RB Ki-Jana Carter
WR Bobby Engram
RB Curtis Enis
WR Joe Jurevicius
WR OJ McDuffie
OT Kareem McKenzie
LB Brandon Short
and, of course, OL Eric Cole
LaVar Arrington, LB (1997-1999)
LaVar Arrington came to Penn State from Pittsburgh, having named the 1996 Parde National, Bobby Dodd National Offensive, Gatorade, and USA Today Pennsylvania Player of the Year. He was the second player in Pennsylvania class 4-A to rush for more than 4,000 high school career yards, having played both linebacker and running back for North Hills Senior High.
Arrington was named a first team All-American in 1998 and 1999 (consensus on the latter), and won the Chuck Bednarik, Dick Butkus, and Lambert awards in 1999 (for best defensive and best linebacker, respectively). He also became associated with the "LaVar Leap", a play most on this site would already be familiar with.
Drafted second in the 2000 NFL draft (after fellow Nittany Mountain resident Courtney Brown), Arrington played for the Redskins for six seasons. He played less than half of one season in New York for the Giants before rupturing his Achilles tendon and being released, ending his professional football career.
Courtney Brown, DE (1996-1999)
Courtney Brown is one of those rare Southern Penn Staters, coming to Happy Valley from South Carolina. He was an All-American linebacker his senior year, and boasted a 4.0 GPA throughout high school.
Brown was a consensus first-team All-American in 1999, and was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year. He was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Lombardi award, given to the nation's best defensive player and linebacker or lineman respectively, as well as the Bednarik award, given to his teammate LaVar Arrington.
The Browns drafted Brown first overall in the 2000 NFL draft and recorded a strong rookie season before being sidelined due to injury in his second season. The rest of his NFL career saw more injuries and sparing playing time; he left Cleveland after the 2004 season to play one season for the Denver Broncos before retiring from the NFL.
Kerry Collins, QB (1991-1994)
Kerry Collins came to Penn State out of SEPA, where he led his high school team of West Lawn to the Class AAAA state title game his senior year (his only year at the school). He was named to the AP All-State team, and was an USA Today honorable mention All-American.
At Penn State, Collins was a consensus first-team All American his senior year. He won the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien awards, given to the nation's most outstanding player and top quarterback respectively. He was named Big Ten Player of the Year and finished fourth in the balloting for the Heisman Trophy, with many votes split between him and teammate Ki-Jana Carter. During his senior season, Collins broke many Penn State records, including total offense, completions, passing yardage, completion percentage, yards per attempt, passing efficiency, and consecutive completions.
Collins was drafted fifth overall in the 1995 NFL draft by the Carolina Panters, the first player ever chosen by that franchise. He played three seasons for the Panthers, including one Pro-Bowl year, before being released, then signing with the New York Giants. The inarguable highlight of his five seasons and sixty eight starts in New York was when he led the team to the Super Bowl in 2001. After being released from the Giants in 2004, Collins was signed to the Raiders, again as a back up that eventually took the reins. He lasted two seasons in Oakland before being signed by the Tennessee Titans in 2006, where he became the 15th player in league history to pass for more than 35,000 yards and was named to a second Pro-Bowl. In Favre-like fashion, after announcing his retirement from football in the summer of 2011, he signed with the Indianapolis Colts for one season, and there are no plans for him to return to the field this year.
Jeff Hartings, OL (1992-1995)
Jeff Hartings came to Penn State from Ohio, where he was a two-time all conference selection and helped lead his team to the state championship his senior year, playing on both offense and defense.
Hartings anchored the line that paved the way for Ki-Jana Carter and Kerry Collins' stellar 1994 seasons, and he was a first team All-American in 1994 and 1995 for his troubles (consensus in 1995). He was an Academic All American in both years as well.
The Lions drafted Hartings in the first round, twenty-third overall, in the 1996 draft. He played in Detroit until 2000, when he signed with Pittsburgh and moved from the guard to center position. He stayed with the Steelers through the 2006 season and his subsequent retirement, earning Pro-Bowl honors in both 2004 and 2005 in the process.
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