by Scott Kindberg
November 24, 1986
Penn State's 'Mr. Press' Remains Humble
It follows him.
It's the kind of notoriety that has engulfed him since his outstanding performance in last year's Orange Bowl when he burst upon the nation's consciousness with a heroic performance against Oklahoma.
It continued through the summer after being the "cover boy" on The Sporting News College Football Yearbook.
And finally the notoriety has become so great this fall that Conlan's Penn State teammates have affectionately dubbed him "Mr. Press."
It's all part of the game when you're an All-American linebacker at a school known nationally as "Linebacker U."
In the last month the Frewsburg native has had his picture in Sports Illustrated three times, been featured on the pages of The Sporting News once, earned Football News and Kodak All-American honors and is a finalist for the Butkus Award, an honor given to the nation's best college linebacker.
That's certainly enough publicity to enlarge anyone's helmet size and pump up anyone's ego. But if you're looking for any Brian Bosworth (the loud, cocky and sometimes dirty linebacker from Oklahoma) in Shane Conlan, you won't find it.
Look all you want.
Conlan and Bosworth are both outstanding All-American linebackers, but that's where the similarity ends.
"I'm more of a team player," Conlan said Saturday afternoon after the Nittany Lions drubbed Pittsburgh 34-14 to set up a likely showdown with top-ranked Miami in the Fiesta Bowl Jan 2.
"Take nothing away from him, he's a great football player," said Conlan about Bosworth. "Look at his stats, just watch him play. He's awesome. But I think he's more individual."
In Conlan's mind, the individual is spelled T-E-A-M.
Throughout his lengthy interviews with the press Saturday afternoon, he repeatedly talked about the work of his teammates and how important they are in his success.
"I wouldn't get anything if it wasn't for our up-front people," he said.
Such humbleness is not often found in a young man who has the world at his feet, not to mention the National Football League.
But then again such humbleness has always been a part of Conlan's easy-going personality.
"I think the big thing is the way I was brought up," he said. "My father's very humble and my mother is too. I just picked it up from them. My brother (Kevin) was a great athlete in high school and he's very humble. That's just my lifestyle. That's the way I've always been. That's the way I'll always be. That's why I hate talking to reporters when they want you to say how great you are. I'll never do that. There're 11 guys on the field and they give just as much."
When pressed further, Conlan admitted that he's "very happy with my play."
But in the same breath, he added, "Each game there's two or three plays I just play within my mind. I can't forget them... In the Notre Dame game, if I didn't get cut (blocked) those three or four times, I probably would have had one of the best games in my career.
The career has been something.
Through Saturday's game, Conlan leads the team with 79 tackles, including 63 solo stops. He also has five sacks, seven tackles for losses, one fumble recovery caused, five broken up passes and one interception.
For his career, he is tied for second with John Skorupan on Penn State's all-time tackle list with 274. Greg Buttle is first with 343 tackles.
So if it's not ego that motivates him, what is it?
"I just want to be the best player I can be," he said. "That's one of the reasons I came back (for his fifth year) because I don't think I've reached my potential. I just want to do the things I couldn't do last year."
Could being a member of a national championship team be part of it?
"Last year was a building year and we surprised a lot of people," he said. "After the Orange Bowl, we were so close. We said we can't let this happen again. We want to win. We were there last year and fell short."
Conlan didn't fall short personally in the Orange Bowl as he registered six solo tackles, including three for losses, and recovered a fumble to stymie the Oklahoma wishbone.
"I think I play better when we play a great team," he said.
Miami is a great team. History should give one an idea of how Conlan will do on Jan. 2.