Penn State Players in the NFL: Week 7
Penn State fans may be focused on drowning their sorrows after the Nittany Lions’ second straight devastating home loss to a Big Ten foe, but there are positives in the world of Penn State football. While the current Nittany Lions football team may not be doing well as of late, there are numerous Penn Staters that are excelling at the next level.
Penn State has long been known as a college football powerhouse, and this extends to the NFL as well, where 30 players across the league are former Nittany Lions.
The Miami Dolphins, Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers lead the NFL with three Penn Staters each, including current NFL stars such as New York running back Saquon Barkley, who is the favorite to win the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award, and Miami defensive end Cameron Wake.
Additionally, there are numerous young NFL players from Penn State, meaning the Happy Valley presence in the NFL is likely not going anywhere soon. Rookies Mike Gesicki of the Dolphins, statistically one of Penn State’s best tight ends ever, Marcus Allen and Malik Golden of the Steelers, Jason Cabinda of the Raiders, DaeSean Hamilton of the Broncos, Troy Apke of the Redskins and Grant Haley of the Giants are all rookies, and there are many other second and third year players out of Happy Valley shining at football’s highest level.
In addition to the high quality of players Penn State sends to the NFL, there is a very impressive quantity. Among the more than 270 college football programs in North America, Penn State’s 30 current NFL players is the ninth most, ahead of historically and currently elite programs such as Oklahoma and Auburn, as well as Big Ten rivals Michigan and Wisconsin. In fact, the only team in the Big Ten with more current NFL players is Ohio State with 42, but one could argue that Penn State has produced better overall players than the Buckeyes.
The two Big Ten powerhouses have also produced arguably the two most productive running backs in the NFL this season in Barkley and Dallas’s Ezekiel Elliott. Both running backs are currently in the top five in the league in rushing yards. Penn State earned the nickname “Linebacker U” in the early 1970s after producing many NFL caliber players at the position who had a reputation for an intense playing style that produced a lot of turnovers and got to the quarterback with ease.
“Linebacker U” stayed as a name synonymous with Penn State for decades—it is still the most plentiful position among the Nittany Lions in the NFL—as more recently players like LaVar Arrington, NaVorro Bowman and currently active players Tamba Hali (Kansas City), Paul Posluszny (Jacksonville) and Sean Lee (Dallas) have made the jump from Happy Valley to the NFL with much success. Among the many lasting pieces of Joe Paterno’s 46 season tenure as Penn State football coach is the legacy of “Linebacker U,” which has lived on from the 1970s to the 21st century.
Despite their miscues over the last two weeks that all but eliminated them from contention for the College Football Playoff, Penn State has a proud legacy that is on display in the NFL and can be seen in just about every game going on during an NFL Sunday. There are just 12 teams across the entire NFL that do not have at least one former Nittany Lion on their roster, as well as one team, the Houston Texans, that is coached by a former Penn State coach in Bill O’Brien.
For the foreseeable future, after watching Penn State’s current football team on Saturdays, fans can watch Penn State’s former players in the NFL on Sundays.
Jeremy Schooler is a sophomore majoring broadcast journalism and business. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.