Penn State Football: 11 Greatest Nittany Lions in NFL History

Kevin McGuire@KevinOnCFBAnalyst IIFebruary 14, 2012

Penn State Football: 11 Greatest Nittany Lions in NFL History

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    Next week, seven Penn State players will participate in the NFL Scouting Combine in hopes of grabbing the eye of an NFL scout or coach. Penn State has always sent players to the NFL, even placing a handful in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of course, some of those players coming out of Penn State have failed to live up to the hype.

    Here is a look at ten of the best players in NFL history to have previously played at Penn State:

Franco Harris

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    When you are talking about the all-time best players in the NFL from Penn State, you have to start with Franco Harris. Harris was named to nine Pro Bowls and seven all-pro teams, and won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Harris was named the MVP of Super Bowl IX, 1972 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and AFL-AFC Rookie of the Year by UPI, and was the 1976 Walter Payton Man of the Year.

    Harris is most famous for The Immaculate Reception in the AFC playoffs against the Oakland Raiders and was voted to the NFL 1970s All-Decade Team.

    Harris finished his Hall of Fame career with 100 touchdowns and 12,120 rushing yards.

Jack Ham

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    If Franco Harris is arguably the best offensive player to come out of Penn State, then Jack Ham may be the best defensive player. Ham was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and six-time First team All-Pro, and he joins Harris on the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team. Ham was also named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team.

    Ham joined Harris on four Super Bowl championship teams with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    Ham had 32 interceptions and 25 sacks in his Hall of Fame NFL career.

Mike Michalske

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    We are digging into the archives for this one, but perhaps one of the earliest greats to come out of Penn State was offensive guard Mike Michalske. How far back are we talking? Michalske was playing for the New York Yankees of the NFL three decades before Joe Paterno was named head coach at Penn State. That is how far back.

    Michalske was named to the NFL's 1920s All-Decade Team and split his professional career between the AFL/NFL New York Yankees and the Green Bay Packers. He was a six-time first team All-Pro.

    Michalske was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1964. He was the first guard to be inducted.

Shane Conlan

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    Shane Conlan is one of the figureheads that made Linebacker U at Penn State. In all of the clips of great linebackers at Penn State, Conlan is guaranteed to be included.

    In the NFL, Conlan was a first-round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills and a three-time Pro Bowl player and All-Pro. He was named the 1987 Defensive Rookie of the Year and ended his pro career with 751 tackles and five interceptions.

    Conlan was a part of Buffalo's first three Super Bowl teams during a span of four consecutive Super Bowl losses.

Lenny Moore

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    If the Colts were to have a Mount Rushmore of franchise greats, there is little doubt that Peyton Manning and Johnny Unitas would be included. It is very likely that Lenny Moore would be included as well.

    The legendary running back and former Nittany Lion was a first-round draft pick of the Baltimore Colts in 1956, and Moore lived up to the hype with seven Pro Bowl and All-Pro selections. He finished his career with 5,174 rushing yards and 111 touchdowns and was named to the NFL's 1950s All-Decade Team.

    Moore's #24 was retired by the Colts.

Mike Munchak

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    Today he is the head coach of the Tennessee Titans, but Penn State's Mike Munchak was one heck of a football player in his playing days.

    Munchak was named an All-Pro ten times and was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection. As far as accolades go, no Penn State offensive lineman has been able to match what Munchak has done at the next level.

    Munchak was named to the NFL's 1980s All-Decade Team and had his #63 retired by the Titans organization. He is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame (inducted in 2001).

Kerry Collins

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    Kerry Collins remains the best quarterback to come out of Penn State, and though he was never great in the NFL, it is hard to argue against his ability to stand the test of time.

    A former top-five pick of the expansion Carolina Panthers in 1995, Collins played for six different teams through the 2011 season, passing for 208 touchdowns and 40,922 yards with a QB rating of 73.8.

    He had his ups and downs, but Collins was named a Pro Bowl selection twice, and he led the New York Giants to the 2000 Super Bowl and the Panthers to the NFC Championship Game in his second season.

Robbie Gould

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    Penn State has sent a few quality kickers to the NFL over the years, including two-time Super Bowl champion Matt Bahr and his brother, Chris. But if we are going to give the nod to a kicker in this list we will have to go with Robbie Gould, who currently plays for the Chicago Bears.

    Gould played with three teams in 2005 but has settled in with the Bears, where he has been a Pro Bowl and All-Pro Kicker, making 187 of 218 field goal attempts.

Tamba Hali

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    Tamba Hali is responsible for one of the most iconic plays in Penn State's recent history, forcing Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith to fumble the football to seal a win against the Buckeyes in 2005.

    Hali has also asserted himself as one of the top defensive players in the NFL today, with a pair of Pro Bowl selections and one All-Pro selection. Hali was also named to the NFL All-Rookie Team in 2006 and was the AFC sacks leader in 2010.

    To date, Hali has recorded 348 tackles and 53.5 sacks (fourth in franchise history) for Kansas City. He has led the Chiefs in sacks five times since joining the franchise.

LaVar Arrington

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    We would have liked to have seen LaVar Arrington play longer, but a ruptured Achilles tendon in 2006 placed Arrington's professional career on the sidelines permanently. Arrington was a top-two pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, following Penn State teammate Courtney Brown, and he spent his entire career between the Washington Redskins and New York Giants.

    Perhaps there were some maturity or personal issues playing a part, but Arrington was a beast when focused and in the zone. Arrington was named to three Pro Bowls and was a three-time All-Pro player with Washington. After signing a big contract with the New York Giants, Arrington became a victim of injury and called it a career.

Curt Warner

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    How Curt Warner was left off this list when first published is unfathomable. Consider it a major oversight on our behalf, but there is no question Warner deserves to be included on this list when we have Robbie Gould checking in.

    After all, Warner did receive three Pro Bowl selections and one first-team and two second-team All-Pro selections. Warner was a top-three pick in the 1983 NFL Draft, following a national championship season at Penn State and he spent seven seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, and one final season with the Los Angeles Rams.

    Warner was inducted in to the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 1994.

    Related: Five NFL Draft Busts From Penn State

    Kevin McGuire is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.


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