Hull, Zettel, Ficken and Hamilton Recognized by Big Ten; Seven Nittany Lions Earn Honorable-Mention
All-American Selection: 2006, 2007
The 2006 campaign was a banner year for high-impact defensive players in the Big Ten, with conference standouts nearly sweeping every national defensive award. Penn State's Paul Posluszny captured his second consecutive Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player and was a finalist for the Butkus Award, which he won in 2005, as well as the Rotary Lombardi Award and Lott Trophy. Players from Big Ten teams also captured the Hendricks, Lombardi and Bronko Nagurski honors. The plethora of superlative defensive players in the conference may have overshadowed the Nittany Lions' Dan Connor, who emerged last season as one of the nation's premier defensive players. The 2003 Parade prep Linebacker-of-the-Year from Strath Haven HS, Connor had a superb junior year for "Linebacker U." and will be counted on to continue to provide highly productive play and leadership in his senior season. He joined Posluszny as a finalist for the Bednarik Award and should be among the primary candidates for the Butkus, Bednarik and Rotary Lombardi awards, All-America and other defensive honors in 2007. Connor earned first-team All-America recognition from The Sporting News last year, becoming the 13th Penn State linebacker to receive first-team All-America honors under Coach Joe Paterno. A starter in the last 20 games at outside linebacker, the vastly talented and instinctive player was shifted to middle linebacker during spring drills. A strong and physical athlete, Connor is a consensus preseason All-America who will lead the talented, deep and productive linebacker unit, rated No. 4 in the nation by The Sporting News. He is rated the nation's No. 1 middle linebacker by Phil Steele's 2007 College Football Preview. Connor is ranked the nation's No. 2 defensive impact player by ESPN's Joe Schad and has an opportunity to put his name in the Penn State records book. A year ago, Connor made 113 tackles and combined with Posluszny (116 hits) to become the first Penn State tandem since Andre Collins (130) and Brian Chizmar (110) in 1989 to record more than 100 tackles in a season. Connor's prolific season boosted his career tackle total to 274, good for a tie for fifth place on the school list and 98 away from the record of 372 established by Posluszny last season. Connor recorded double-figure tackle totals five times last season, giving him 11 in his career and was one of only three Big Ten players to receive conference Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors twice in 2006. An outstanding competitor, Connor possesses excellent speed, skills and toughness and the ability to get to the ball and make plays. In addition to eclipsing the century mark in tackles, he also recorded five sacks, led the team with three forced fumbles (sixth in Big Ten), had two interceptions and one big safety on a sack. A three-time all-state selection at Strath Haven HS, Connor's dedication to academics allowed him to graduate from high school a semester early, enrolling at Penn State in January 2004. He is one of 10 returning Nittany Lions from Eastern Pennsylvania.
2006 Junior Season
Connor started every game at outside linebacker and emerged as one of the nation's high-impact defensive players. Connor had a superb junior year for "Linebacker U.," earning first-team All-America honors from The Sporting News and second-team All-America accolades by the Associated Press. He was instrumental in helping the defense finish ranked in the top 15 nationally in rushing (87.5 ypg, seventh), scoring (14.4 ppg, ninth), total defense (284.5 ypg, 15th) and pass efficiency defense (105.9 rating, 14th) and sacks (40, sixth tie). Connor was fifth in the Big Ten with 113 tackles, recording a team-high 70 solo stops. He was third on the squad with 9.0 tackles for losses, tied for third with 5.0 sacks (minus-39), led with three forced fumbles (sixth in Big Ten), had two interceptions and one big safety on a sack against Illinois. Connor combined with fellow All-American Posluszny (116 tackles) to become the first Penn State tandem since Andre Collins (130) and Brian Chizmar (110) in 1989 to record more than 100 tackles in a season. He joined Posluszny as one of three finalists for the Bednarik Award. Connor became the 13th Penn State linebacker to earn first-team All-America honors under Coach Joe Paterno. He was the 77th Penn Stater selected a first-team All-American a total of 90 times and the 61st Nittany Lion to receive first-team All-America accolades a total of 73 times under Paterno. Connor also was a second-team All-Big Ten choice. Connor capped his junior season by leading the Lions with 10 tackles in the Outback Bowl win over Tennessee and combining with Sean Lee to force a fumble that Tony Davis returned 88 yards for the game-winning score in the fourth quarter. By the end of the campaign, Connor had increased his career tackle total to 274, good for a tie for fifth place on the school list and 98 away from Posluszny's record. He recorded double-figure tackles five times during the season, giving him 11 in his career. Connor was one of only three Big Ten players to receive conference Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors twice in 2006. He was first recognized after making a season-high 13 stops in the season-opener with Akron, recording career-highs with 3.5 TFL for minus-23 yards and two sacks. Connor also earned Big Ten accolades in the 12-0 blanking of Purdue, as he made a game-high 12 tackles (10 solo) and grabbed an interception at the Lions' 20, helping hand the Boilermakers their only shutout under Coach Joe Tiller. Connor made his second interception of the season in the Penn State Red Zone and helped hold the nation's No. 8 ranked offense to 246 total yards, 208.5 below its average. He led the defense to its first shutout since 2002. He followed his big game against Akron with a team-high tying 12 tackles at No. 4 Notre Dame. Connor made eight stops at Ohio State, with a tackle for loss, and grabbed a third-quarter interception to give Penn State possession on the Buckeye 26-yard line. He helped the Lions limit the Ohio State offense to 14 points. He also made eight hits (seven solo) against No. 4 Michigan, with a TFL, in the 17-10 setback. Connor and the defense turned the Illinois Homecoming game around in the second half. With the Lions trailing, 9-3, at the break, the defense forced three turnovers over an 11-play span in the third quarter, lifting Penn State to a 17-9 lead. In the fourth stanza, he recorded a safety on a sack for a 19-12 lead, completing his 12-tackle day. He made 10 tackles at Wisconsin and forced a fumble on a sack that was recovered by Sean Lee on the Badger 14-yard line. Connor helped the Lions hold the Badgers to just 13 points, 20 below their season average. He made six tackles and forced his team-high third fumble against Temple, helping hold the Owls to two first downs and 74 total yards, both the lowest opponent outputs in the Paterno era. Against Michigan State, Connor made seven tackles (four solo) and recorded two pass breakups, helping hold the Spartans to just 14 yards rushing. He improved his season tackle total to 103, joining Posluszny as the second Penn State tandem to both post 100 tackles in the same season since tackle records began being kept in 1969. Connor was on the field for 908 snaps, second only to Anthony Scirrotto, led by 92 against Michigan State.
2005 Sophomore Season
Connor moved into the starting lineup for the thrilling win over Ohio State and got the starting nod the last seven games, recording 76 tackles, good for a tie for fourth on the squad. He made 5.5 tackles for losses, 1.5 sacks and was third on the team with eight pass breakups. He also returned a fumble 18 yards for a touchdown at Illinois. Connor was instrumental in helping the Lions lead the Big Ten in pass efficiency defense (106.6 rating) and rank second in scoring (17.0 ppg), total (304.7 ypg) and rushing defense (93.0 ypg) and sacks (41). Connor came up big in the FedEx Orange Bowl win over Florida State, leading the Lions with seven tackles (five solo), including two tackles for losses. He helped Penn State limit the Seminoles to 12 first downs, 26 yards rushing and three-of-17 on third-down conversions. Connor finished the regular-season with his top effort, recording a game and season-high 14 tackles (nine solo) in the Big Ten title-clinching win at Michigan State. Connor made 12 tackles, including a sack, in the dramatic 17-10 win over Ohio State and followed with nine stops at Michigan. He then made nine hits in the first half at Illinois and returned a fumble 18 yards for his first collegiate score. Connor saw action on 630 snaps, topped by 88 at Michigan State.
2004 Freshman Season
Connor was second on the team and ninth in the Big Ten with 85 tackles (50 solo) in just four starts. Named a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News, the Football Writers Association of America and Scripps, Connor started the last three games at inside linebacker after spending much of the season at an outside spot. Playing in every game, he posted 4.5 tackles for loss (minus-12 yards), one sack and one interception for a defense that ranked among the top 10 in the nation in four categories and was the only team in the nation to not allow more than 21 points in a game. Connor posted five tackles (three solo) in his first game, the season-opening win over Akron, and picked off a pass in the victory over UCF. He went on to lead or tie for the team lead in tackles in three games, including a 10-tackle performance against Purdue and a season-high 16 stops against Northwestern, the highest tackle total for a Nittany Lion in two seasons. In the season-ending 37-13 victory over Michigan State, Connor posted 11 tackles and one tackle for loss, one of four double-digit tackle performances on the year, including each of the last three games. He also recorded 11 tackles and a tackle for loss at Indiana where he was instrumental in limiting the Hoosiers' offense to 10 points and keeping Indiana out of the end zone on four plays from the one-yard line in the final two minutes to preserve a victory. He was on the field for 558 plays.
Connor was a consensus prep All-American at Strath Haven HS for Coach Kevin Clancy. A four-year starter, he was selected the nation's top prep linebacker by Parade and earned first-team All-America accolades from USA Today, SuperPrep and numerous other media outlets. The 2003 Associated Press Big School Player-of-the-Year, Connor was named first-team all-state three times. He also earned all-region, all-city, all-county and all-league honors and was the captain and MVP of his team. In addition, he won the Maxwell Football Club's prestigious Jim Henry Award as the Philadelphia Area Player-of-the-Year and was the Philadelphia Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Player-of-the-Year. He totaled 4,556 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns during his prep career. Defensively, he made 451 tackles, 18 sacks, 16 interceptions and six fumble recoveries. As a senior, he rushed for 1,807 yards on 251 carries, for a spectacular 7.2-yard average, scoring 28 touchdowns. Connor was instrumental in Strath Haven winning the 2000 Pennsylvania Class AAA state championship and playing in the AAA state title game in 2001 and `02. He played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2004. He also lettered in basketball and track, where he participated in the high jump, javelin, discus and shot put.
Full name is Daniel Murphy Connor. He has two older brothers, Jim and Mike. Jim played football at Boston College and Mike played at Lehigh. Connor enjoys playing guitar in his spare time. He is a crime, law and justice major. Born November 2, 1985 in Wallingford, Pa.