Penn State Football

Who is Penn State’s best-ever OL? It was a tie for first place

Levi Brown started all four seasons for the Nittany Lions, earning second-team All-America honors in consecutive seasons as an upperclassman.
Levi Brown started all four seasons for the Nittany Lions, earning second-team All-America honors in consecutive seasons as an upperclassman.

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Penn State football: The all-time Top 10 at each position

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We’re nearing the end of our summer series on the top-10 all-time Penn State players at each position.

We’re now on Day 9, which means it’s time for the offensive line to shine. To recap so far: We started off with running backs, followed by defensive tackles, defensive backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers/punters, defensive ends and quarterbacks.

As a reminder, we organized a group of 12 experts — six former players, six media members — to vote on the top-10 all-time players at each position. Each day we’ll release a new position, and if you think we missed something, you can vote in our fan poll, which will be released on July 21.

Here are Penn State’s top-10 offensive linemen based on the opinion of our 12-person panel:

10. Chris Conlin, 1984-1986

Best ranking / worst: No. 4 / Unranked

The 1986 first-team All-American slipped past top honorable mention Sean Farrell by a single voting point, but his spot here is well-earned. Conlin was a three-year starter who was a finalist for the Outland Trophy as a senior offensive tackle — despite missing two games due to injury.

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Steve Suhey was an All-American guard on the Nittany Lions’ undefeated 1947 team — which he played on after serving three years in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps in World War II. Penn State photo

9. Steve Suhey; 1942, 1946-1947

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / Unranked

This name should ring a bell. The “first family of Nittany Lion football” was started by Suhey and Bob Higgins’ daughter; three of their sons played for Penn State as did two grandsons. But Steve was the best. He was an All-American guard on the Nittany Lions’ undefeated 1947 team — which he played on after serving three years in the Pacific with the Army Air Corps in World War II. He was the MVP of the 1948 Cotton Bowl and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1985.

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A.Q. Shipley was a two-time first-team all-conference selection and went on to win the Rimington Trophy in 2008 CDT/Nabil K. Mark CDT/Nabil K. Mark

8. A.Q. Shipley, 2005-2008

Best ranking / worst: No. 5 / Unranked

Coming out of high school, just about everyone wanted Shipley as a defensive tackle — Penn State included. In college he went back and forth between offense and defense several times before settling on the OL, and it didn’t take long to see his natural ability. Shipley was a two-time first-team all-conference selection and went on to win the Rimington Trophy in 2008 as the nation’s top center. He was an All-American, the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and, in the NFL, has played in 89 career games and counting.

7. Marco Rivera, 1992-1995

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / Unranked

The three-year starter was a favorite among the player voters, and for good reason. He was a critical part of the undefeated 1994 team and part of arguably the best offensive line the Nittany Lions have ever produced. His biggest claim to fame, however, came at the next level. He played 11 seasons in the NFL and made three Pro Bowls; he’s now in the Green Bay Packers’ Hall of Fame.

6. Glenn Ressler, 1962-1964 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / Unranked

Ressler grew up on a farm as the strong-silent type with an unquestioned work ethic. He didn’t play football until high school at the insistence of his friends, and Penn State fans owe those friends a great deal. Ressler was a dominant two-way lineman who won the Maxwell in 1964 and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2001. He also spent 10 seasons in the NFL, blocking for the likes of QB legend Johnny Unitas.

5. Keith Dorney, 1975-1978 (2 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / Unranked

Not only did he have the versatility to play multiple positions on the line, but he also excelled: He was the first Penn State offensive lineman to be twice named a first-team All-American. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005. Said Joe Paterno, back in 2005: “In my many years here, we’ve seen a lot of exceptional inemen, and he is one of the very best of that distinguished group.”

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Levi Brown started all four seasons for the Nittany Lions, earning second-team All-America honors in consecutive seasons as an upperclassman. Nabil K. Mark

4. Levi Brown, 2003-2006

Best ranking / worst: No. 2 / Unranked

When it comes to longevity, Brown has every other lineman on this list beat. He started all four seasons for the Nittany Lions, earning second-team All-America honors in consecutive seasons as an upperclassman. He was a physical run-blocker for all of the 45 games he started, and he was selected No. 5 overall in the 2007 NFL draft. He didn’t live up to expectations in the pros, but he was a monster at Penn State — and it’s hard for PSU fans to be disappointed in a student-athlete who earned his third degree in 2016.

3. Steve Wisniewski, 1985-1988 (1 first-place vote)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / No. 10

Nasty, physical, intimidating, dirty — these are all words that have been used to describe Wisniewski. He would block until the whistle, sometimes past it, and he made it known he was a lineman to be feared. Wisniewski was a two-time first-team All-American, and he was named to the NFL’s Pro Bowl eight times. He recently earned his way onto the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame, and he’s also regarded as one of the best NFL’ers not currently in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Said Joe Paterno, in 1988: “He’s one of the better linemen we’ve had around here. He can run and he’s very intense.”

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Mike Munchak’s NFL career was one of the greatest of all-time. Penn State photograph

T-1. Mike Munchak; 1979, 1981 (3 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / Unranked

In the first, and only, time in our summer series, we have a tie for first place. The player voters preferred Munchak, while the media preferred Jeff Hartings. It’s hard to argue with either pick.

Munchak is a Penn State guy through and through, but it wasn’t always that way. Back in high school, he called Joe Paterno to let him know he was committing elsewhere — until JoePa asked to stop over for dinner and convinced his family that PSU was the right place. Turns out the blue-collar Scranton native was everything Paterno hoped for.

Munchak may have started just two seasons — a knee injury kept him out in 1980 — but he was an All-American who made an indelible impact. He was part of the unforgettable 48-14 win against Pitt, and his NFL career was one of the greatest of all-time.

After starting 156 career NFL games and making nine Pro Bowls, NFL.com analyst Gil Brandt ranked him as the No. 5 all-time guard in NFL history. Munchak was reportedly a strong candidate for the Penn State coaching job, and he currently coaches the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive line.

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Jeff Hartings was a two-time All-American as a guard, a three-time first-team all-conference selection and a first-round NFL draft pick. Pat Little Centre Daily Times

T-1. Jeff Hartings, 1992-1995 (5 first-place votes)

Best ranking / worst: No. 1 / Unranked

Hartings may have been the media’s No. 1, but some players also voted him for the top spot. One of the reasons is pretty simple: He was the best offensive lineman on the best offensive line that Penn State has fielded in modern history.

He was a cornerstone of the record-setting 1994 offense; the line allowed just three sacks and paved the way for an offense that averaged a country-best 47 points per game despite often resting starters by the start of the fourth quarter. “Without them,” quarterback Kerry Collins said in 1994, referring to the OL, “we’re nothing.”

Hartings was never the biggest — he was 6-foot-3, 275 pounds as a redshirt junior — but he boasted an uncanny blend of strength and agility. He was a two-time All-American as a guard, a three-time first-team all-conference selection and a first-round NFL draft pick.

He was a fan favorite at Penn State, a two-time all-pro with the Pittsburgh Steelers — and the type of offensive lineman you just don’t forget.

Top OL honorable mentions: Sean Farrell, 1979-1981; Kareem McKenzie, 1997-2000; Stefen Wisniewski, 2007-2010; Brad Benson, 1974-1976; Joe Bedenk, 1921-1923

Voters in our panel: (Players) Keith Conlin, 1992-1995; Bill Contz, 1980-1982; Stephon Morris, 2009-2012; Joe Nastasi, 1995-1998; A.Q. Shipley, 2005-2008; Adam Taliaferro, 2000; (Media) Nate Bauer, Blue White Illustrated; Matt Brown, The Athletic; Cory Giger, The Altoona Mirror; John McGonigal, Centre Daily Times; Josh Moyer, Centre Daily Times; Mark Wogenrich, Allentown Morning Call

How the voting was done: Each voter was given an online survey, with 20-50 players at each position, to rank 1-10. If a player was not listed, voters were given the option for a write-in. First-place votes gave players 10 points, second-place votes gave them 9, etc. We then added all the point totals together to find our top 10; honorable mentions have received at least 10 total points.

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