by Scott Kindberg
January 2, 2011
Case For Conlan
Twenty-five years ago yesterday, I was sitting in the Orange Bowl, a still-green sportswriter who had been assigned to cover the Nittany Lions against Oklahoma in the game that would determine the national champion.
Actually, the reason I was there was because of Shane Conlan.
As most everyone in these parts knows, No. 31 was an All-American linebacker in those days, a young man who parlayed an outstanding career for the Frewsburg Bears into an even better one while playing for Coach Joe Paterno.
So by the time I took my seat in the antiquated stadium, I had little doubt that Conlan would provide me with enough material to make the trip to south Florida worthwhile. I just didn't know how much.
Although the Nittany Lions suffered a 25-10 loss to the Sooners, Conlan showed the nation why he's one of the greatest linebackers in Penn State history. Isolating against Oklahoma quarterback Jamelle Holieway, Conlan held him to one yard on 12 carries. Holieway had been averaging almost 100 yards per game.
I found video of Conlan's effort on YouTube and watched it in amazement. Named the defensive Most Valuable Player, he was all over the field. NBC announcers, Don Criqui and Bob Trumpy, were singing his praises.
After the game, I tracked Conlan down at the team hotel in Miami Beach - I didn't have a credential that allowed me locker room access at the Orange Bowl - and I found a young man who didn't want to talk about his individual performance. Although he had six tackles, a fumble recovery and all sorts of love from NBC, it mattered not to Conlan. A national championship was lost and, to the son of Dan and Kay Conlan, that's all that mattered.
Fast forward a year later. I was invited to the home of longtime Frewsburg football coach Tom Sharp to watch Penn State take on Miami in the 1987 Fiesta Bowl. Once again, the Nittany Lions were playing for a national title.
Just as he did in the Orange Bowl a year earlier, Conlan left his mark all over the field in Tempe, Ariz.
Against the Hurricanes, Conlan had eight tackles and picked off two passes, returning the second one 38 yards to the 5-yard line to set up the game-winning touchdown as Penn State prevailed, 14-10. Conlan, once again, was named the defensive Most Valuable Player. YouTube has that game archived, too.
It was a fitting end to one of the greatest careers in Penn State history and one of the greatest careers of any linebacker to play college football.
That's why I think Conlan deserves to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Following is the criteria for nomination, according to Wikipedia:
1. First and foremost, a player must have received major first team All-America recognition.
2. A player becomes eligible for consideration by the Foundation's Honors Court 10 years after his last year of intercollegiate football played.
3. While each nominee's football achievements are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and his fellow man with love of his country.
Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.
4. In accordance with the 50-year rule, players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years. For example, to be eligible for the 2005 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1955 or thereafter.
5. The nominee must have ended his professional athletic career prior to the time of the nomination. Check.
Reading that criteria, can there be any doubt of Conlan's worthiness?