Former Penn State All-America linebacker Shane Conlan has been elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.
Conlan is one of 14 players whose honors were announced Thursday. The class also includes late Alabama linebacker Derrick Thomas, LaDainian Tomlinson, Sterling Sharpe and Tony Boselli.
Conlan helped lead Penn State and coach Joe Paterno to the 1986 national championship.
“It’s been a tough time the last few years at Penn State,” he said, fighting back tears as he thanked “The late, great Joe Paterno. We miss you, Coach.”
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Here is the full text of Penn State’s press release announcing Conlan’s election:
Former Penn State All-America linebacker Shane Conlan, the leader of the Nittany Lions’ tenacious 1985-86 defenses, has been elected to the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame. Conlan is the 18th Penn State player to receive college football’s ultimate honor.
Conlan will be inducted with other members of the Class of 2014 at the National Football Foundation’s 57th annual awards dinner on December 9 at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. He will become the 23rd member of the Penn State program inducted, joining 17 other former players and five Nittany Lion coaches. The most recent Penn State player so honored was running back Curt Warner in 2009.
“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.”
A native of Frewsburg, N.Y, Conlan was a standout at Frewsburg Central High School before matriculating to Penn State, where he was instrumental in the Nittany Lions posting a 23-1 mark his last two seasons, capped by the 1986 National Championship. A senior co-captain in 1986, Conlan led Penn State to a stunning 14-10 win over No. 1 Miami (Fla.) in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to capture Penn State’s second national title in five seasons.
“Shane was one of the greatest linebackers in our long and outstanding LinebackerU heritage and we are thrilled for him,” said Dave Joyner, Penn State Director of Athletics. “His intense, physical play and leadership were exciting to watch. Most importantly, though, is how he has conducted himself on or off the field; always with humility and class. His demeanor, drive and success after football serve as another example for all our student-athletes — past, present and future. We are very proud of Shane and elated he has earned college football’s most prestigious honor.”
“The Penn State football family is ecstatic that Shane Conlan has been selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame,” said Nittany Lion head coach James Franklin. “Shane is one of the primary reasons why so many people know about the unrivaled tradition of LinebackerU. 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.”
Conlan capped his career by leading a superlative defensive effort in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl to earn the game’s Most Valuable Defensive Player, recording eight tackles and two interceptions to lead Penn State past previously unbeaten Miami for national title. Conlan led a Nittany Lion defense that forced seven turnovers, including a season-high five interceptions of Vinny Testaverde, the 1986 Heisman Trophy winner. He returned his second interception 38 yards to the Miami five-yard-line to set-up D.J. Dozier’s game winning touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“Having an opportunity to play for two national championships while I was at Penn State was special,” said Conlan, who lives in suburban Pittsburgh.