By now, you all know that next week, the Big Ten Network will be airing a program on who should be on the Mount Rushmore of all-time great Penn State football players. Ultimately, it will be up to you--Penn State football fans--to decide which four players get onto the Mount Rushmore of PSU football, but here at Black Shoe Diaries, we asked our editorial staff to make the case for some of our favorite players of days past.
In the storied legacy of Linebacker U, Paul Posluzny was the epitome of the Penn State linebacker. Posluzny won back-to-back Bendarik Awards as the best defensive player in college football while leading some of the best defenses in school history. His legacy will forever remain intact as the emotional leader of the 2005 Big Ten Championship team that remains as memorable as any season in Penn State history. Poz played with an unmatched tenacity that allowed him to constantly terrorize and rattle opposing offenses, while inspiring everyone around him to go beyond the limits of their individual talents to create a collective unit that led PSU back from the "Dark Ages" to take their respective position among college football’s elite. But Posluzny’s tenacity was paired with a heart bigger than Beaver Stadium, which will forever place him among the forefront of the numerous legends who donned the classic blue and white Penn State uniforms. He was also a true representative of The Grand Experiment, graduating early with a 3.57 GPA while always representing the university with class and honor. There is no more appropriate fit for the Penn State Mount Rushmore than the iconic image of Posluzny in his number 31 jersey with blood running down his face.
Let's face it: Penn State's never been known as an offensive juggernaut. So when the Nittany Lions took the field in the fall of 1994, sure it was with raised expectations--but was anyone really expecting the firepower that they displayed? Collins was, if not all of it, the undisputed backbone of the most prolific and exciting offense in PSU history, one that broke fourteen school records. Collins himself won the Maxwell and Davey O'Brien Awards, and was the Big Ten Player of the Year and finishing fourth in the Heisman voting (Rashaan Salaam? really?); he broke PSU season records for total offense, completions, completion percentage, passing yards, yards per attempt, and efficiency--and threw for over 5,000 yards in his career.
Though technically NFL prowess isn't supposed to factor into our decisions here, Collins was unarguably Penn State's most successful quarterback at the next level, going in the first round to Carolina, going to the Pro Bowl twice and the Super Bowl once, and lasting a remarkable seventeen years (almost double the average NFL career length of a first round draft pick).
And he still endows the quarterback position at Penn State via scholarship--if that doesn't deserve a place on Mount Rushmore, I don't know what does.
When I think of Mount Rushmore, I think of the people who most deserved to be honored based on their entire resume. This doesn't just include what they did during their four years at Penn State; I think you also need to factor in what they did after their time in Happy Valley. This is why Jack Ham is an absolute no-brainer pick for my Penn State Mount Rushmore. Yes, he is arguably the best linebacker in PSU history (if he's not, he's certainly in the discussion), as evidenced by his 251 career tackles and four blocked punts during his three year career. He's also perhaps the best winner in PSU history, as he went 29-3 with the Nittany Lions, and played on two teams that ended the season 11-0 -- both of which finished No. 2 in America.
But then, look at his professional career. Look at how his dominance wasn't just limited to Happy Valley, but it also translated to being one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history. Ham took what he learned under Joe Paterno and became a wrecking ball in the pros. Seriously, stack Ham's resume as a college and professional football player against that of any Nittany Lion, and this isn't a debate: it doesn't get any better than Jack Ham.
When it comes to producing top-tier talent, Penn State has a knack for doing so at two positions in particular, linebacker and running back. The Linebacker U nickname is well-known and well-deserved; however, the list of prominent running backs that have emerged from Happy Valley is quite impressive as well. Standing out in a group that includes Lenny Moore, Lydell Mitchell, John Cappelletti, Ki-Jana Carter, Larry Johnson, Evan Royster, and others isn't easy to do. Yet none of those great players were more memorable and more deserving of recognition than Curt Warner.
Warner sits second on the list in school history for career rushing yards with 3,398, after averaging more than five yards per carry for four years. He was twice honored as an All-American, and also went on to have a very successful NFL career in Seattle, where he has since been named into the Seahawks Ring of Honor. Perhaps his greatest accomplishments, however, were his contributions to the 1982 Penn State team, who brought home the school's first National Championship trophy. Without Warner's leadership and talent on that 1982 squad, Penn State surely would not have been able to bring home their first of two crystal trophies. For that, along with his plethora of other accolades, Curt Warner belongs on Penn State's Mount Rushmore.
The big reveal will be aired on BTN on Thursday, December 11, at 10 pm, and you can still vote for your favorite players here: