On Thursday afternoon the latest class to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame was announced. Among the 16 names to be honored is one of the pillars of Linebacker U, Penn State linebacker Shane Conlan.
Conlan will be the 18th Penn State player to be inducted to the College Football Hall of Fame. Conlan will be the third Penn State linebacker enshrined in the hall, along with Jack Ham (Class of 1990) and Dennis Onkotz (Class of 1995). All three are influential figures in the strong linebacker lineage at Penn State, and having them each in the hall of fame only strengthens that foundation.
“It’s a great honor to join all the former Penn State players and all the great players in the College Football Hall of Fame,” said Conlan. “It’s very humbling. The list of nominees was such a distinguished group.”
He’s not joking. Conlan had been on the ballot for a few years before being able to gather enough votes to be elected to the hall. This year the Hall of Fame class failed to include two Heisman Trophy winners — Ricky Williams of Texas and Eric Crouch of Nebraska — and another top-tier college linebacker, Brian Bosworth of Oklahoma. Even Alabama’s Derrick Thomas, one of the best defensive players in the history of the sport of football given his accomplishments with the Crimson Tide and at the NFL level, had to wait five years after being inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame to receive the honor of being added to the College Football Hall of Fame. The voting process is not perfect for the College Football Hall of Fame and it has some flaws in the system, but it proves it is not easy being voted in.
“The Penn State football family is ecstatic that Shane Conlan has been selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame,” said Penn State head coach James Franklin. “Shane is one of the primary reasons why so many people know about the unrivaled tradition of Linebacker U. Shane was a fierce, tough competitor and leader and we are excited that he is being appropriately recognized for his outstanding career with his enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.”
Growing up watching college football I focused more on the offensive side of the football and I just got into the sport as Penn State joined the Big Ten. The glory days of the 1980s were nothing but a blur to me in most respects, although my father recorded each national championship game on VHS so I was able to watch them years later. As you educate yourself on the history of Penn State football, one name that becomes synonymous with defense is Shane Conlan. Conlan, as I have always been led to believe, is the textbook example of what a true Penn State linebacker is supposed to be. To this day, Conlan is the linebacker that will be the ultimate sign of respect for any player receiving a comparison to the new hall of fame player.
“I know that if my father had a [short] list of clutch players he’d go into a big game with–Shane was on it,” Jay Paterno said on his Facebook page. Conlan commented on the opportunity to play for Joe Paterno during a media briefing following the announcement Thursday.
Penn State running back D.J. Dozier and offensive guard Steve Wisniewski were also on the ballot this year but were not elected. Because Conlan was elected this year, no Penn State player will be eligible for induction in the Class of 2015 because the National Football Foundation does not vote players from the same school in back-to-back years.