With the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, we here at Black Shoe Diaries are about to dive deep into the coverage of our beloved Nittany Lions who will soon be gracing some lucky NFL rosters. Before we look forward to the futures of the stars of tomorrow, though, we're going to take a look at some stars of the past.
Today, we are going to break down each of Penn State's former linebackers that remain in the NFL--the bread and butter of what made, and makes, PSU LBU--and check out their careers thus far.
Years at Penn State: 2003-2006
Draft Position: Round 2, Pick 34 by the Buffalo Bills (2007 Draft)
Current Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
Professional highlights: 2013 Pro Bowl
The two-time Bednarik award winner (but only one time Butkus winner...still trying to figure that one out) has gone on to be an incredibly prolific NFL career as the best defender in some not-so-great NFL teams. In his four seasons in Buffalo and four years in Jacksonville, Poz has tallied 887 tackles (639 solo), 12 sacks, 40 passes defended, 11 interceptions and one touchdown. In eight seasons he's played 99 games--but missed all of the games after game 7 of this past season due to a torn pec (which he played through after suffering in game seven--shades of this). Reports are that he'll be back to 100% for preseason, and he is expected to play all of the upcoming 2015 season for Penn State south.
Poz also recently agreed to a one-year contract extension with the Jaguars, which will keep him in Jacksonville through 2017. He's led that team in tackles in three of the last four years--and only his injury kept him from doing the same in 2014.
Years at Penn State: 2005-2009
Draft Position: Round 2, Pick 55 by the Dallas Cowboys (2010 Draft)
Current Team: Dallas Cowboys
Professional highlights: 2x NFC Defensive player of the Month
When Sean Lee was drafted, I was at a concert and got a text message and screamed "NOOOOOO" as loud as I possibly could. That says as much about that as it possibly could.
Though his professional career, much like his career at Penn State, has been marred somewhat by injury, Lee has been a grounding force in the Cowboys locker room, and by all accounts a solid leader and one of their best defenders both on and off the field. He missed all of 2014 due to another torn ACL, and much of 2012, but in his other 46 games played over four seasons, he's logged 294 tackles (202 solo), 18 passes defended, and a ridiculous 11 interceptions--including a really pretty pick six against HOFer Peyton Manning in 2010, the same year he also picked off Tom Brady.
All accounts are that Lee is ahead of schedule in injury recovery, and he should be back to 100% for the fall, his fifth season with the Cowboys. He also may be switching sides to weakside linebacker this year, which may change his productivity--who am I kidding, he's Sean Lee. As long as he's healthy, he's a ball hawk.
Years at Penn State: 2006-2009
Draft Position: Round 2, Pick 53 by the San Francisco 49ers (2010 Draft)
Current Team: San Francisco 49ers
Professional highlights: 3x First Team All Pro (2011, 2012, 2013), 49ers Team MVP (2013), Professional Butkus Winner (2013), 2x Pro Bowl (2012, 2013)
It's hard to line up next to one of the best linebackers on the field and make a big impact in nearly every game, but that's what NaVorro Bowman did nearly immediately when he took the field next to Patrick Willis in San Francisco. Though he only started one game as a rookie, his impact was felt his second year, when he started all sixteen games for the 49ers and helped lead them to an NFC championship. Until the gruesome injury that shredded his knee and knocked him out of the NFC championship game at the end of the 2013 season, he hadn't missed a game in four years in San Francisco. To that point, he'd logged 482 tackles (365 solo), 9 sacks, 22 passes defended, 3 interceptions and 5 forced fumbles in one of the best defenses in the NFL.
Bowman is reportedly recovering very well from his injury over a year ago, and many reports were out that if the 49ers had been in serious contention he could have gone for them near the end of the 2014 season.
Years at Penn State: 2007-2011
Draft Position: Round 7, Pick 230 by the Oakland Raiders (2012 Draft)
Current Team: Atlanta Falcons
Penn State: where a linebacker with only one year (16 games) of starting experience and coming off a major scandal will still get drafted. Stupar's bounced around on the practice squads of a number of NFL squads, seeing time with the Raiders (who drafted him), the Eagles, and the 49ers, with whom he got a championship ring. He spent time with the Jaguars, leading them in tackles in the 2014 preseason before being cut; he was then finally signed to a 53-man roster when the Falcons picked him up in August 2014.
Stupar saw time in 15 games last season for Atlanta, registering 9 tackles on special teams. In March of this year, they signed the linebacker to a two-year contract extension, presumably through the 2016 season.
Years at Penn State: 2008-2012
Draft Position: Round 7, Pick 213 by the Minnesota Vikings (2013 Draft)
Current Team: Minnesota Vikings
Mauti's career, much like Lee's, has been marred by injury after injury. He spent much of his time at Penn State rehabbing, and missed the last game of his senior season with his third torn ACL; he finished his second season in Minnesota on the injured reserve list as well, having had arthroscopic knee surgery before the end of the season. Despite not being able to fully participate in pro-day and draft day festivities due to his recent injury, Mauti was still picked up by the Vikings in the last round, and saw time in 14 games his rookie season, mostly on special teams. He's logged 15 tackles (13 solo) in his first two years in the league.
Years at Penn State: 2009-2012
Draft Position: Round 4, Pick 120 by the Minnesota Vikings (2013 Draft)
Current Team: Minnesota Vikings
Everyone's favorite punt returner played second fiddle to Mauti much of his final season in Happy Valley, but was the first Penn State linebacker taken in the 2013 draft. He played eleven games for the Vikings his rookie season and worked his way into the starting lineup his second year, playing 14 games and starting seven. He's notched 71 tackles (55 solo), .5 sacks, 7 passes defended, and one interception (for a touchdown) in his time in the league. With the Vikings thinking of trading starting linebacker Chad Greenway, Hodges could see his playing time increase exponentially in 2015.
Years at Penn State: 2010-2013
Draft Position: Undrafted (UDFA in 2014)
Current Team: Arizona Cardinals
Carson quietly put together one of the most prolific careers as a Nittany Lion, starting three years in the blue and white. As an under the radar player coming out last year, he unsurprisingly went undrafted--but also unsurprisingly was signed by a team almost immediately, and he's been in Arizona ever since--making the final 53 man roster immediately. Carson saw time in five games in 2014, making eleven stops (7 solo) in his rookie year.