by Scott Kindberg
August 14, 1984
Shane Conlan Has Attributes Of A Linebacker Says Joe Paterno
They were answering questions - many for the umpteenth time - concerning the Nittany Lions' upcoming football season.
Running back D.J. Dozier, a potential All-American candidate, stood on one side of the complex while Doug Strang, the senior quarterback, stood on the other.
Near a door at one end of the all-purpose sports facility, the third player, Shane Conlan, stood patiently answering questions and punctuating the answers with an occasional smile.
Dozier, after completing his interview, left the complex, leaving Strang and Conlan - a 1982 Frewsburg Central School graduate - as the only two players remaining.
Ironically, both Strang and Conlan play the so-called "glory" positions at Penn State. Strang will call the signals on offense while Conlan will patrol an outside linebacker spot at a school known for producing outstanding linebackers. Do the names Jack Ham and Greg Buttle ring a bell?
Conlan, entering his second year of eligibility at Penn State, is one of a cast of veteran linebackers that is considered a strength in an otherwise youthful team.
In fact, the team will have a maximum of seven seniors in the starting lineup - only two on defense - and will face, arguably the toughest schedule in recent memory. Eight of the Lions' foes played in a bowl game last season.
But if the other Lions are in as good of shape as Conlan, the forecast for the youthful team may be bright after all.
Listed in the Penn State Football Media Guide as 6-3, 212 pounds, Conlan has bulked up to 221 pounds after spending the summer lifting weights. He now bench presses 340 pounds and equaled a personal-best time of 4.5 seconds in the forty-yard dash earlier this week.
"Shane should be one of our better ballplayers," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I think Shane has a chance to be outstanding. He's an awfully good athlete."
Conlan and Rogers Alexander of Riverdale, MD shared outside linebacker duties last season and are expected to do so again this year. Carmen Masciantonio of Jeannette, PA, one of the two seniors on defense, and Don Graham of Pittsburgh, round out the linebacking corps.
This year, Conlan who has been tried in the secondary at the "hero" slot and also at defensive end during a spring practice, appears set at outside linebacker.
"It's a real good position," Conlan said. "It's the best position on the team."
In Penn State's 3-4 defensive alignment, Conlan will line up behind the defensive end which enables him to get a five-yard running start on the play.
"He's got the attributes of a linebacker," said Paterno, who has seen a few good linebackers in his 19 years as coach at Penn State. "Shane is just maturing where he can do a lot of things."
The defensive unit gave up a lot of points last season, but Conlan says things have changed.
"The big difference," Conlan said, "is we're friends. We all want the same thing. Everybody's fired up."
And they'll have to be against the likes of Iowa, Texas, Maryland, Alabama, West Virginia, Boston College, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh.
Is Conlan looking forward to such a rugged schedule?
"For sure," he said. "You've got to, to play the best. It's a challenge."
Conlan has met the challenges thus far, overcoming a calf injury, to record 27 tackles, including 18 unassisted stops, in 1983. He turned in two excellent performances in the final two games against Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. In the Notre Dame game, he had six tackles and in the Pitt game he had six tackles, one sack, and two fumbles caused. For that performance, he was named the TCS-TV defensive player of the game. He also had six tackles and one interception against Alabama.
"We were having trouble deciding where to play him," Paterno said of Conlan. "I thought he played well when he played. He's had some trouble staying healthy."
But Conlan bristles at the suggestion that he came out of nowhere.
"Everybody makes it sound like I just came on," he said, adding the calf injury forced him to miss all of fall camp.
His efforts have not gone unnoticed by linebacker coach Jerry Sandusky.
Sandusky was not available for comment on Tuesday, but in the media guide he described Conlan this way: "Shane's time is here for him to be an excellent football player. He can run, jump and has all the qualities to be a really good linebacker. It's time now."
Other people outside of Penn State are taking notice of Conlan's abilities as well.
Conlan has been mentioned in a number of college football periodicals, including an Inside Sports article by former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian.
However, Conlan doesn't read his own press notices. "I don't read those things," he said.
He lets his play on the field do the talking.